Shrubby Cinquefoil

Shrubby Cinquefoil, also known as Potentilla, is versatile in the garden, and it surely does impress with an unusually long flowering period from June to October.

Jul 23, 2021 03:20 pm
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Growth type
  • Small shrub
Growth height (from)
from 50 cm to 130 cm
Growth width (from)
from 50 cm to 150 cm
Growth characteristics
  • sweeping
  • upright
  • bushy
Flower color
  • yellow
  • orange
  • red
  • pink
  • white
Flowering time (month)
  • June to October
Flower shape
  • Shell Flowers
Flower characteristics
  • unfilled
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • 3-7 count
  • feathered
  • oblong
Fruit color
  • brown
Fruit characteristics
  • unimpressive
  • sunny
Soil type
  • sandy to loamy
Soil Moisture
  • fresh to moderately humid
ph value
  • weakly alkaline to acidic
Lime compatibility
  • sensitive to lime
Nutrient requirements
  • nutrient-rich
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower Decoration
  • non-toxic
Winter Hardness
  • hardy
  • ground cover
  • Borders
  • pruned hedges
  • Group planting
  • Planters
  • Rose companion
  • privacy screen
  • Underplanting
  • Surface greening
Garden style
  • Flower garden
  • Park area

Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) is part of the rose family and native to the temperate and sub-polar zones of the whole northern hemisphere. It predominantly grows in extreme, dry and moist locations, especially on mountain slopes. In China, Shrubby Cinquefoil is found at heights of around 16,404 feet.

Shrubby Cinquefoil has long been cultivated as a garden plant and is valued by garden designers thanks to its ease of care and versatility. There are now countless garden varieties with various flower colors and growth patterns. As well as Shrubby Cinquefoil, the Potentilla genus encompasses countless perennials. Together, they are called Cinquefoils.


Depending on the variety, Shrubby Cinquefoil grows to around 20 to 51 inches tall and 20 to 59 inches wide with a flat, groundcover-like to broad yet upright, bushy growth pattern. The short thin shoots of Potentilla fruticosa are heavily branched and have light brown to red brown bark.

Potentilla fruticosa var. mandshurica
These long flowerers like to spread out. This looks particularly lovely against brickwork, e.g. at the entrance of a house. The densely branched white Manchu Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa var. mandshurica) grows to around 20 to 31 inches tall and twice as wide

The opposite, deciduous leaves have three to seven leaflets making them reminiscent of little hands - hence the alternative common name of “five fingers”. The individual leaflets are 0.39 to 1.18 inches long. Shrubby Cinquefoil has little to no fall coloring.


Shrubby Cinquefoils feature the single five-petalled cup flowers that are typical within the rose family. The wild variety flowers in a bright shade of yellow but there are varieties with white, orange-red and pink-colored blooms. Large-flowered varieties such as “Goldfinger” have blooms that reach diameters of 1.18 inches, while smaller-flowering varieties of Potentilla fruticosa exist with flowers measuring just 0.39 of an inch. These shrubs are extremely voracious flowerers in full sun with relatively low nutrient levels and bloom from June to October.

Potentilla fruticosa “Hopley’s Orange”
Potentilla fruticosa “Hopley’s Orange” is covered all over with bright orange flowers

The unremarkable brown fruits of the Shrubby Cinquefoil have no particular decorative value.

Location and Soil

The low-maintenance Shrubby Cinquefoil tolerates heat well and is resistant to extreme weather conditions. It prefers full sun and even copes with drought well once established. When it comes to soil, Cinquefoils are extremely easy to satisfy: they tolerate any soil that isn’t waterlogged. Otherwise, the pH should not be too alkaline.

Planting and Care

Cinquefoils are almost exclusively sold as potted plants so can be planted all year round - you can even plant when the weather falls below freezing in winter as long as ground frost doesn’t prevent you from digging a hole. As these shrubs root very deeply, the soil should be deep and permeable.

Shrubby cinquefoils even thrive in dry locations
Shrubby cinquefoils are easy to care for and even thrive in dry locations

No special care is required: regular fertilization is as unnecessary as summer watering during dry spells. This only makes sense if the cinquefoil has not yet well established.


Shrubby Cinquefoils do not usually require regular pruning. However, you can cut these shrubs back till you reach the old wood, to reform the crown. They are very regenerative and reliably grow back even after being cut right back to the ground. The best time for drastic corrective cuts is early spring. To ensure young shrubs grow nicely dense and bushy, you can snip the ends of shoots with hedge clippers after planting in spring.


Its preferred location opens up plenty of possibilities when planting shrubby cinquefoil in the garden. Half-height varieties add structure to the planting in a flower bed, for instance. Shorter varieties can generally be planted in groups or as groundcover to ensure they come into their own. Flowering, cut or uncut borders are also ideal for shrubby cinquefoil. Depending on the variety, you can plan for four to six specimens per square yard. If you want to use them to enclose a border, three specimens across a little over one yard will quickly form a lovely edge.

Shrubby Cinquefoil as a hedge
As a hedge, shrubby cinquefoil forms a dense bush without blocking completely. The height remains manageable. The sunny flowers look cheerful and last for a long time. The variety “Goldfinger” is ideal

Thanks to its flowering period and very similar location preferences, Shrubby Cinquefoil and repeat-flowering roses are a match made in heaven. Depending on your choice of rose, it’s best to choose varieties with white flowers like “Abbotswood” as the yellow-flowering cultivars can be successfully combined with fewer rose varieties. Shrubby Cinquefoil also works well in shrubberies. The simple, bowl-like flowers look natural and attract a plethora of beneficial insects. When planted individually, large-flowering varieties, such as the 51 inch tall “Goldfinger”, are sure to draw the eye.

Potentilla fruticosa ‘Abbotswood’
Potentilla fruticosa “Abbotswood” is a very voracious flowerer, blooming from June to October

There are countless popular Potentilla varieties as well as some new cultivars that have particularly compact growth while adding new shades to the palette.

“Goldfinger”: one of the largest varieties and most voracious flowerers. It grows to around 51 inches tall and 59 inches wide, and has corn yellow flowers
“Dart’s Golddigger”: the best yellow variety for groundcover, 16 to 20 inches tall, 31 to 39 inches wide
“Abbotswood”: very voracious flowerer, this variety has white flowers, 31 to 39 inches tall, 39 to 51 inches wide
“Manchu”: white flowers, groundcover variety, 16 to 20 inches tall, 39 to 47 inches wide
“Bellissima”: new pink cultivar, very color-stable flowers, spherical growth pattern, 31 inches tall and wide
“Bella Sol”: new variety with yellow-orange flowers, best color in full sun, around 24 inches tall and 31 to 39 inches wide
“Red Ace”: orange-red flowers, 20 to 24 inches tall, 39 to 47 inches wide, good ground cover

Potentilla fruticosa ‘Manchu’
Potentilla fruticosa “Manchu”

All Shrubby Cinquefoils can be easily propagated through cuttings and will grow true. Take cuttings from slightly woody shoot tips in June and place these in a propagator tray with moist potting soil. The propagator tray should be positioned in bright indirect light outside, occasionally ventilated and kept evenly moist. Depending on the soil temperature, the cuttings will begin to root after two weeks.

Diseases and Pests

Shrubby Cinquefoil is very resistant to most diseases and is rarely affected by pests. Occasionally, powdery mildew may infect the plant but this is not fatal. You can avoid re-infection in the following year by spraying sulfur as you would for roses.