A group of hardy flowering annuals, perennials and shrubs. Annuals are rarely grown in the UK but perennials are popular as summer border flowers and woody forms make excellent shrubbery plants or ground-cover.
Family: Rosaceae (rose)
Botanical Name: Potentilla
Common Names: cinquefoil, five fingers, silverweeds
Foliage: Semi-evergreen, pale to mid-green, small, multi-lobed or pinnately divided leaves.
Flowers: Single, saucer-shaped blooms in shades of yellow or white.
Flowering Period: May into September.
Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, sand or loam). Any pH.
Conditions: Full sun or partial shade. Can be grown in a north, south, east or west-facing aspect, in either a sheltered or exposed location.
Origin: northern continents.
Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.
Plant outside in early autumn or spring. Container grown plants can be planted out at any reasonable time of year.
Grow in an open sunny position in any good, well drained, fertile soil. Thrives in full sun or partial shade but the flowers tend to fade in full sun.
Although shrubby forms are not the neatest of plants, Potentilla is a very useful and tough contender for the border, due to its ability to grow almost anywhere and for its long flowering period.
Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Mulch with organic matter in spring and apply a general fertilizer suitable for shrubs.
Dead-head the flowering shoots of shrubby forms and remove any weak and old stems.
Cut back perennials once the flowers have faded in autumn.
Generally pest and disease free.
Seeds of shrubby forms and annuals can be sown in spring.
Perennials and shrubs can also be increased by division in October or March. One of the best methods is to take 3in (75mm) semi-ripe cuttings in the autumn and root in cold frame.
Herbaceous forms are not as popular as the shrubby types but they are vigorous growers and the flowers are showy and bright. Double forms are available.
Potentilla atrosanguinea (Himalayan cinquefoil, Ruby cinquefoil) is a hardy perennial with grey-green leaves and red, yellow or orange flowers from June to September. Height to 12in (30cm), spread to 24in (60cm). Available from Gardening Express. Good garden varieties include: 'Gibson's Scarlet' a vigorous grower, with masses of large, single, intense-red flowers, 'Glory of Nancy' with greyish foliage and semi-double orange-crimson flowers, 'William Rollison' with bright orange-flame flowers and 'Golden Starlit' with golden yellow flowers.
Potentilla 'Helen Jane' is a compact form with crimson-eyed, bright pink, strawberry-like blooms. Available from Thompson & Morgan.
Potentilla nepalensis 'Miss Willmott' is an attractive, clump forming, herbaceous perennial with saucer-shaped, pink flowers on slender branching stems. Available from Thompson & Morgan.
Potentilla recta Warrenii produces sprays of bright yellow saucer shaped flowers. Easy to grow and great ground cover. Available from Gardening Express.
Potentilla thurberi 'Monarch's Velvet' (scarlet cinquefoil) is a perennial with bright green leaves and deep raspberry pink saucer-shaped flowers with a very dark centre. Height to 24in (60cm). Available from Gardening Express, Thompson & Morgan.
Potentilla tonguei is a low growing variety with apricot flowers with a red eye. Makes good ground cover. Height to 16in (20cm)
Potentilla tridentata is an evergreen, low growing alpine form, ideal for groundcover. The glossy dark green leaves have good autumn/winter colour. Height 12in (30cm), spread to 24in (60cm). The variety 'Nuuk' bears pure white buttercup-like flowers. Available from Thompson & Morgan.
Potentilla fruticosa (shrubby cinquefoil) is a compact shrub, with bright yellow flowers throughout summer. Height and spread up to 5ft (1.5m). Available from Van Meuwen. Good cultivars include 'Abbotswood' and 'White Lady' with white flowers (available from Van Meuwen), 'Goldfinger' produces bright, golden yellow flowers (available from Thompson & Morgan), 'Limelight' has pretty white flowers with yellow centres (available from Van Meuwen), 'Marian Red Robin' bears vermillion red blooms and fine grey green foliage (available from Thompson & Morgan), 'Pink Queen' has lovely pink flowers above the dark green foliage (available from Gardening Express), 'Red Ace' bears vermilion-flame flowers (available from Thompson & Morgan), 'Mount Everest' with white, cup-shaped flowers (available from Thompson & Morgan), 'Mango Tango' with yellow-orange flowers (available from Van Meuwen).
Potentilla verna (spring cinquefoil, alpine Cinquefoil) is a vigorous, low-growing, evergreen shrub with bright yellow flowers in April-May. Height 3in (7cm), spread up to 2ft (60cm). Cultivar 'Nana' is a less vigorous form.