Cinquefoil, a cinch!

potentille

With its appearance evoking wild roses, the cinquefoil seems to have been created specifically to introduce beginners to the joys of gardening.

Its gracious and abundant blooming lasts all summer long, and sometimes even up to the first frost spells if fall is mild.

Cinquefoil flowers appear on the year’s growth, as early as May for the earliest varieties and as late as October for the most tardy ones. Delicate petals with cute colors, sometimes bright, sometimes pastel, depending on the species. Very accommodating, cinquefoil takes delight in whatever soil is given to it, even chalky, poor or sandy, as long as it is well drained. Easy to grow, it resists deep cold, even down to -13°F (-25°C) and dry spells, too.

An urban flower

Cinquefoil is a choice plant for tiny gardens and balconies. A large pot at least 10 inches (25 cm) across will let it grow for two or three years without need for any repotting. For substrate, use a mix of one part “balcony or terrace” soil mix, one part garden soil and one part river sand. Add liquid fertilizer twice a month, from April to the end of September, this will ensure excellent growth.

Set the pot arrangement in full sun and water every two or three days during summer. In fall and at the beginning of spring, watering weekly should be enough. In winter, reduce watering down to once every two weeks, and then again only if the weather is dry. Prune in spring to keep the bushy bearing and spur blooming, because flowers appear on the year’s current growth. With a hand pruner, eliminate the oldest branches, cut other branches back by half, just above an eye (bud).

Easy to propagate

Bushy cinquefoil are easy to propagate through cuttings. Collect tips of young stems in August (length: 4 inches (10 cm)) and stick them in a pot filled with a fifty-fifty blend of sand and blond peat. Propagating through hardwood cuttings from November to February is also very easy. It is advised to prepare cuttings often, since many varieties tend to be rather short-lived.

Divide the perennial cinquefoil crowns every three years, to rejuvenate them. Some species make for ground cover: for these, eliminate suckers that tend to take root around the plant, or it will become invasive. Sprigs from crawling cinquefoil varieties are easily naturally layered.

Marie Etavard

Caption of the picture:

Potentilla fruticosa ‘Red Ace’, a variety that cherishes shade more than the yellow varieties do. © La Plante du mois.