Common name: Shrubby cinquefoil
If any garden shrub could be described as ‘indispensable’ it is the Potentilla. It is generally easily grown, requiring little attention, happy in sun or light shade and, above all, flowering from late spring to early autumn.
Over the years, the naming of these plants has, to say the least, become somewhat confused so it is best to rely on variety name. Potentillas are available in several colours, with yellows and whites leading the field. However, those with pink or redare equally attractive (these are best grown in a lightly shaded spot as their blooms tend to fade when subjected to the full glare of the sun).
One has only to look through a specialist shrub catalogue to appreciate just how many potentillas there are. Most are small or medium-sized.
Popular species and varieties
Among the many yellows are ‘Elizabeth’ (AGM) and ‘Primrose Beauty’ (AGM), both growing to about 1m (3ft) in height, with large canary-yellow blooms. ‘Golden Spreader is a good low-growing potentilla with masses of deep yellow flowers. ‘Lemon and Lime’ is free-flowering with light green-yellow blooms.
One of the best known white varieties is ‘Abbotswood’ (AGM), growing to 75cm (30in) in height ‘Manchin’ is a good ground cover shrub, just 30cm (12in) high. One that created a considerable stir when introduced a few years ago was the vermillion ‘Red Ace’. This is another low grower, reaching just 60cm (24in). Another excellent choice is ‘Hopley’s Orange’ with blooms of, would you believe, orange. There are, as already mentioned, plenty more from which to choose.
Soil type Any well-drained soils — but ideally not too rich, as this would result in foliage at the expense of flowers.
Planting Sun or light shade, the latter is best for reds and oranges. They can be planted whenever conditions are suitable from early autumn to early spring.
Maintenance No generalis required, but keep the plants in shape by removing any weak or straggly growth in the spring.
Propagation Semi-ripe cuttings with a heel, taken in summer
Pests and diseases Generally, no problems are encountered.