Potentillas are hardy garden plants that are divided into two groups: shrubby potentillas and perennial potentillas. Both types are commonly known as cinquefoil. Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) has twiggy arching branches and finely divided, deciduous green leaves, from which long-lasting displays of five-petalled, saucer shaped flowers are borne in summer. Perennial potentillas are clump-forming and make a handsome summer display of saucer-shaped flowers on slender stems. Both types make excellent plants for garden borders and are easy to grow, requiring very little maintenance.


Potentillas thrive in a wide range of soils and tolerate poor conditions, although perform best in soil that's moderately fertile and well-drained. Marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris) is a moisture-loving species to grow in ponds or bog gardens.

In size, shrubby potentilla grows to around 1.2m high and wide, and herbaceous perennials to 60cm high and wide, depending on variety. Flowers come in a range of colours, including red, yellow, pink, and orange, along with softer colours of white and cream. Potentillas make excellent wildlife plants as the nectar-rich blooms attract pollinating insects.

How to grow potentilla

Grow potentillas in moist but well-drained soil in in full sun or partial shade. Mulch annually with leaf mould, home-made compost or well-rotted manure. Shrubby potentillas require no regular pruning but perennial potentillas benefit from a tidy up in autumn or winter.

Where to grow potentilla

Potentilla 'Helen Jane'. Abi and Tom's Garden. Paul Debois
Potentilla 'Helen Jane'. Abi and Tom's Garden. Paul Debois

The best place to grow potentillas is in garden borders with moist but well-drained soil, in full sun or partial shade. Plant potentillas singly or in small groups. Shrubby potentillas also make a good low hedge. Bear in mind, however, that shrubby potentillas are deciduous and can therefore look bare and twiggy in winter, so it's best to avoid planting them in front of a window or next to a path, where you will see them regularly.

More like this

How to plant potentilla

Potentillas are hardy and best planted in autumn, in mild spells in winter, or in early spring. If planting during the growing season, water them regularly until autumn. Plant with the top of the root ball at the same depth as the soil level, firm in, and water well to settle the soil around the roots.

How to care for potentilla

Potentilla warrenii. Torie Chugg
Potentilla warrenii. Torie Chugg

Once established, potentillas need little care. As with all border plants, mulching annually with well-rotted organic matter, in winter or early spring, is beneficial but not essential. There’s no need to deadhead shrubby potentillas as the blooms are small. With perennial species, removing the faded flower stems keeps plants tidy.

As with many perennial plants, flowering of herbaceous perennial potentillas declines on older plants as the clumps become congested. Rejuvenate them by lifting, dividing, and replanting, in autumn.

How to prune potentilla

Shrubby potentillas need no regular pruning although trim back, if needed, in early spring. On older plants, thin out congested stems to rejuvenate and encourage new growth.

Once growth of perennial potentillas dies back in autumn, remove by cutting back to ground level.

How to propagate potentilla

Propagate shrubby potentillas by taking softwood cuttings of young, non-flowering shoots, in summer. Propagate perennial potentillas by dividing established clumps, in autumn or early spring.

Pests and diseases

Potentillas are usually free of pests and diseases.

Advice on buying potentillas

  • Potentillas are widely available from nurseries and garden centres or from online suppliers
  • Make sure you're buying the right potentilla for the space you have available, and bear in mind that shrubby potentillas can look bare and twiggy in winter
  • Always check plants for signs of pests or diseases before planting

Where to buy potentilla

Potentilla varieties to grow

Potentilla 'Katherine Dykes'. Hilliers Nursery. Jason Ingram
Potentilla 'Katherine Dykes'. Hilliers Nursery. Jason Ingram

Shrubby potentillas

Potentilla fruticosa ‘Katherine Dykes’ – soft primrose-yellow flowers are borne in profusion on a bush that is slightly taller than wide. Height x Spread: 1.2m x 1m

Potentilla fruticosa ‘Pink Beauty’ – masses of soft pink flowers smother this mounded shrub throughout summer. H x S: 1m x 1m

Potentilla fruticosa ‘Red Ace’ – the flowers are an unusual shade of orange-red on opening, fading to orange. Grow in partial shade for the most intense colour as blooms fade in full sun. H x S: 1m x 1m

Perennial potentillas

Potentilla palustris – this moisture-loving species thrives in the shallow margins of a pond or in bog gardens. Maroon-purple flowers in late spring and early summer, on low-growing, spreading plants. H x S: 15cm x 30cm

Potentilla tonguei – this low-growing and spreading potentilla makes excellent ground cover for the fronts of borders, or rock gardens. Bears orange blooms with red centres from spring into summer. H x S: 15cm x 60cm

Potentilla thurberi ‘Monarch’s Velvet’ – rich red blooms are borne throughout summer on slender stems above clumps of fresh green, strawberry-like foliage. H x S: 40cm x 40cm