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Yellow Tundra Flower Facts

By Teo Spengler ; Updated September 21, 2017
Cinquefoil thrives when you ignore it, needing neither irrigation nor fertilizer.
TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Getty Images

This is one little shrub that gets around. Yellow tundra flower is just one of dozens of common names used around the globe for shrubby cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda). Termed a "circumpolar" species, this world wanderer is native to the northern regions of North America, Europe and Asia.

High Five

Five is the number to remember with shrubby cinquefoil. The name "cinquefoil" is an approximation of the French words "cinq feuilles," meaning five leaves, and refers to the five small gray-green leaflets in each whorl. The bright yellow flowers bloom for five months, May to September, with each blossom comprised of five buttery petals. The shrub grows into a mound some 5 feet wide and almost as high.

No Fear

You can't pick your family, and the fact that shrubby cinquefoil is related to the rose (Rosa spp., zones 4B to 10B) does not make it a high maintenance shrub. Like most native plants, it is a survivor and tolerates virtually any adverse condition in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 7. Bring them on: shade, drought, dry soil, wet soil, alkaline soil, clay soil, swampy soil, rabbits, deer and air pollution; cinquefoil handles them all.

Best Guest

When cinquefoil's long bloom-time and easy-care ways earn it a garden-party invitation, it proves a welcome guest. Put it in the sun or partial shade, ignore it after establishment, it continues to thrive to the delight of passing butterflies. Vigorous and floriferous, the multi-branched shrub is evergreen in warmer climes, deciduous elsewhere. Its searching roots provide excellent erosion control and better yet, it is pest and maintenance free, according to experts at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Variations on a Theme

The species plant makes a great low hedge or serves well as a foundation plant mound for a perennial garden, but you can opt for a fancier version. Arc-en-ciel cinquefoil (Potentilla "Arc En Ciel") is a blaze in the summer, the many, layered petals a fiery red with yellow edges. Plant this trailer in zones 4 through 8. For deep pink flowers with crimson eyes, try "Miss Willmott" (Potentilla nepalensis "Miss Willmott") in zones 2 through 9. Don't be alarmed if the scientific name on cultivars looks different than the species, since Potentilla floribunda and Potentilla fruticosa ssp. floribunda are considered synonyms for Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda. Note that cultivars can lack the tough qualities that make the wildflower low care, including drought and pest resistance.

 

About the Author

 

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.