Potentilla

Posted by shane - February 9, 2015 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Shrubs - No Comments

Potentilla fruticosa cvs.

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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.

Exposure

Full sun

Pruning Time

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.

Shaping

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.