Potentilla fruticosa cvs.
This native plant is one of the most commonly planted shrubs in Alberta. Flower colour ranges from yellow (most common), to white, pink, and orange. It is drought-tolerant and will survive inhospitable planting sites. It is commonly planted in dusty commercial parking lots and boulevards, or found mingling among the cigarette butts along a drive-thru. I have seen a few very nice specimens in my career, but more often than not, these plants look ragged and unkempt, often butchered with power hedgers, and often full of winter die-back. While this plant is very hardy, it doesn’t look good in spring and often doesn’t look like much until mid-summer. I only include this plant in design work if specifically requested. If you really like potentilla, I suggest providing a good, deep, well-drained garden loam, and make sure it gets adequate irrigation throughout the growing season. It is drought-tolerant but it prefers an evenly moist, good-quality growing medium. Expect to spend some time removing die-back each spring. These plants are insect- and disease-resistant.
I prefer seeing this shrub in its native habitat, on Rocky Mountain slopes or the backwoods of the Okanagan. It is a beautiful plant in its own right.
In late spring, once in full leaf, to remove dead patches. In mid-summer to reduce the width of stems to re-balance the shape of the shrub. If this plant is to be sheared into a formal shape, it is best shaped twice per season, once shortly after the growth flush in late June, and again in mid- to late summer to improve the shape. I recommend a light shearing as opposed to hard cutting into old wood. Light shearing keeps a tighter shape, and improves the flower density. Hard “cutting-back” makes the shrub look mutilated and unsightly. Properly shaped shrubs should look good through all the seasons, not just in summer.
Well-suited. Use sharp hand shears, not power hedgers. Shears slice, hedgers tear. You wouldn’t get your hair cut with a steak knife, would you?
(c) 2015 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB.