The shrubby cinquefoil, known as potentilla in the nursery trade, is a popular plant especially in northern growing zones. This small shrub puts out a profusion of blooms from June to September and is considered low maintenance once established. Many cultivars are available with blooms in white, yellow, orange or pink.
The botanical classification for this shrub is Potentilla fruticosa , a member of the Rosaceae (Rose) family. There are thousands of familiar species in this family including roses, the Prunus fruits, strawberries, Rubus spp. berries, cotoneasters and hawthorns (Crataegus spp.). You may sometimes see it written as Dasiphora fruticosa.
Commonly used names include shrubby cinquefoil, golden hardhack, shrubby potentilla, yellow rose, bush potentilla, bush cinquefoil, widdy and potentilla.
How to Grow Shrubby Cinquefoil
Shrubby cinquefoil, is a vigorous, compact, deciduous shrub native to northern parts of the U.S., Canada, Europe and Northern Asia. This small shrub does well in USDA growing zones 2-7.and thrives best in the warm summer months of cooler climates. It is not recommended for growers in the southeastern USA where it can succumb to disease and insect infestations in warmer, humid conditions.
It typically grows in a mound to 2-4’ tall on branches with blue-green leaves and 5-petaled flowers similar to the flowers of strawberries. Taller cultivars work well in borders or as foundation plantings. Dwarf species are good for rock gardens. Blooms are attractive to butterflies.
Shrubby cinquefoil will adapt to many soil types, even clay, as long as the soil is well draining.
The shrubby cinquefoil may be planted in locations with full sun or part shade. The most vigorous blooms will appear when the plant is grown in full sun, however some shade can be beneficial in areas with very hot summers. You will get more flowers if you can plant it where the shrub will receive full sun.
Once established this shrub is tolerant of drought, erosion and air pollution. Annual rainfall is probably sufficient although new plantings should be kept evenly moist until they establish a good root system and show new growth.
It isn't necessary to fertilize shrubby cinquefoil although flowering can be encouraged with an all purpose fertilizer applied in early spring. A layer of compost worked into the soil at planting time will supply sufficient nutrients.
In addition to the profusion of blooms appearing on your shrubby cinquefoil, the leaves can also add interest in the landscape. Small, densely packed branches bear compound pinnate leaves with narrow, elliptical leaflets in shades of blue green to dark green. The 'Abbotswood Silver' cultivar has variegated leaves. The fruit produced is a brown achene. These shrubs are dioecious and you will need both male and female plants if you plan to collect seeds.
Types of Shrubby Cinquefoil
- 'Abbotswood' - white flowers
- 'Beanii' - white flowers
- 'Day Dawn Viette' - peach and pink flowers
- 'Farrer's White' - white flowers
- 'McKay's White' - white flowers
- 'Mount Everest' - white flowers
- 'Pink Beauty' - pink flowers
- 'Pink Pearl' - pink flowers
- 'Pink Queen' - pink flowers
- 'Pink Whisper' - pink flowers
- 'Red Ace' - orange flowers
- 'Snowbird' - double white flowers
- 'Sunset' - orange, red and yellow flowers
- 'Tangerine' - orange and yellow flowers
- 'Vilmoriniana' - ivory white flowers
Design Tips For the Shrubby Cinquefoil
The shrubby cinquefoil is an excellent choice for cold climates where many other plants struggle or die. This plant can be a great way to pop some color into your drought tolerant garden. These shrubs are perfect for use in mass plantings, borders, foundation plantings and rock gardens.
Propagation may be done by taking softwood cuttings in summer and by sowing seeds in fall.
Prune in late winter to help this shrub maintain a rounded shape. Shrubby cinquefoil is a low maintenance plant once established and also is drought tolerant. This makes it a good plant for gardeners who have limited time.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Pests include aphids (Aphididae family), lygus bugs (Lygus hesperus), and spider mites (Tetranychidae family). In hot humid conditions, the shrub may suffer from black spot and mildew.