Potentillas are the Rodney Dangerfield of the shrub world: They “don’t get no respect.”
Suggest a potentilla, and gardener may roll their eyes and dismiss the plants as common and not garden worthy.
Perhaps, I can change that opinion with the top five reasons to add a potentilla to your garden.
1. Tough. Native potentilla can be found growing in harsh climates like the gap between the Alberta and Saskatchewan Cypress Hills. This is not a plant that will need to be coddled in the garden.
2. Easy to care for. Given full sun and a moderate amount of moisture, potentilla will thrive. In partial shade, the plant will do well, but produce fewer flowers. The only thing to avoid with potentilla is overly moist soil. Every two to three years, rejuvenate the plant by pruning back 50 per cent. Because potentillas bloom on new wood, pruning will give more flowers and restore the plant’s shape.
3. Almost completely disease and pest free. Even the rabbits and deer will ignore potentilla for more delectable garden treats. This makes potentilla an excellent plant for the lake.
4. Bloom all summer long. In the early 1950s, when our Opa and Oma (Harry Sr. and Adrie), founded Dutch Growers, finding a plant that bloomed all season long was difficult. Potentillas were some of the few shrubs available that would perform all summer. As more plants were developed, the potentilla was gradually ignored.
5. Bloom in more than yellow. Potentilla varieties can be found flowering in white, red, orange and pink.
One University of Manitoba introduction, Pink Beauty, has been awarded the British Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit, recognizing its value in the garden. Another University of Manitoba introduction is Mango Tango, a bicolour, with orange-red petals that radiate to a bright lemon yellow at the edge.
Some of the newer yellow flowering potentilla, like Gold Star, feature large blossoms over 1-½ inches in diametre. The yellow-flowered potentilla pair nicely in the landscape with purple-leafed plants such as Cistena Cherry or some of the newer ninebark. One of my favourite combinations pairs Center Glow Ninebark with Gold Star Potentilla. The yellow Gold Star blossoms enhance Center Glow’s bright yellow new grown. As Center Glow’s foliage matures to a deep purple, the yellow Gold Star blossoms continue to compliment the Ninebark.
Don’t casually dismiss a potentilla from your garden. Just like Rodney — everyone and everything deserves some respect.