Potentilla recta

Common Name: sulphur cinquefoil 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Rosaceae
Native Range: Eurasia
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Deer, Drought

Culture

Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade, but will not grow in full shade. Established plants have respectable drought tolerance. Performs well in a variety of different soils including coarse-textured ones. It can spread somewhat invasively in the garden by self-seeding. It may perform poorly in hot and humid summer climates south of USDA Zone 8.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Potentilla recta, commonly known as sulfur cinquefoil or five-fingered cinquefoil, is a vigorous, tufted, multi-stemmed, non-rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial of the rose family that typically grows to 12-30” tall. It is native from the Mediterranean and central areas of Europe to central Asia south to Asia Minor and Iran plus in some alpine areas of northern Africa. It was accidentally introduced into North America in the late 1800s with subsequent naturalization occurring in a wide variety of habitats throughout the U.S. and Canada, primarily in disturbed areas including but not limited to roadsides, railroad right of ways, abandoned agricultural fields, meadows, pastures and waste areas. It is now found in every State in the continental U.S. except Utah and Arizona. This plant will often colonize disturbed areas. It is classified as a noxious weed in five U.S. States (Washington, Oregon, Montana, Nevada and Colorado) plus in the Province of British Columbia, Canada.

Petiolate, palmate-compound basal leaves have 5-7 (9) hairy, coarsely toothed, lanceolate leaflets (central leaflet to 3” long). Much smaller, sessile, stem leaves are typically trifoliolate (3-5 leaflets), shrinking in size as they ascend the stems which rise from spreading basal clumps to as much as 30” tall. Each plant produces 1 to 8 stems. Five-petaled, pale sulfur-yellow flowers (to 1” diameter) surround a center of 25-30 yellow-anthered stamens. Flowers bloom at the stem ends in clusters (loose flat-topped cymes) from early to mid-summer (late May to August). Flowers are followed by seeded fruits (achenes). A single plant on average can produce 1600 or more seeds per year.

Genus name from Latin potens meaning powerful is in reference to the reputed medicinal properties of the plant.

Specific epithet from Latin means upright.

The common name of cinquefoil comes from the Latin words quinque meaning five and folium meaning leaf in reference to the 5-parted plant leaves. Sulfur is a reference to the sulfur-yellow flower color.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Plants can be invasive in the landscape, sometimes competitively displacing both native and non-native plants through colonization.

Garden Uses

Notwithstanding its weedy reputation, sulfur cinquefoil is a vigorous perennial with attractive flowers and vegetation. Wildflower gardens. Borders. Cottage gardens. Low-maintenance areas where naturalization is not a serious concern.