Potentilla Flower (Silverweed) Guide: How To Grow, Care For Potentilla Bush

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | May 1, 2024

Lady looking at wild potentilla flower (silverweed, shrubby cinquefoil) after reading a growing guide that explained how to plant and grow cinquefoil, uses for types of silverweed flowers, and landscaping tips for potentilla.

If you would like to learn more about Potentilla fruticosa, also known as the “Shrubby Cinquefoil” or the “Potentilla Flower,” you’ve come to the right place.

This tough, colorful shrub is a great addition to your front lawn or backyard garden because they are extremely hardy, lovely to look at, and very beneficial to the local ecosystem.

Potentilla bushes are often used as hedging, a garden specimen, or presented in containers. These plants can range from 3 inches to 5 feet tall, and they’re a versatile addition to any landscape.

Their saucer-shaped blooms emerge in late spring and come in a variety of colors including yellow, white, pink, orange, and red. These flowers sit on top of finely textured palmate leaves.

Not only do Potentilla plants make a great addition to your home garden, but they also attract a diverse set of pollinators to your property.

In addition to numerous species of butterflies, you’ll find that these shrubs will attract 1 to 5 bees per square meter including honey bees, yellow-faced bees, and sweat bees.

This complete guide explains everything you need to know to get silverweed growing and keep it thriving.

Potentilla, Shrubby Cinquefoil

(Potentilla fruticosa, Dasiphora fruticosa)

Potentilla in an oval frame on a green background.
  • Characteristics: A highly durable, long-blooming shrub that produces crisp foliage and charming showy flowers in a broad range of colors.
  • Family: Rosaceae (rose)
  • Genus: Potentilla
  • Leaf: Pinnate leaves with elliptical leaflets in shades ranging from blue-green to dark green
  • Seed: Best sown in full sun either indoors (late winter) or outdoors (early spring)
  • Blossoms: Small terminal clusters. Bright flowers have five petals and are ½” to 1” in diameter
  • Native Habitat: Dry shrub-steppe communities, rocky high elevations, limestone.
  • Height: 1 to 5 feet tall
  • Canopy: Branches are slender with deciduous leaves that create dense foliage; bright flowers bloom from late spring until autumn.
  • Type: Perennial
  • Native Growing Zone: Western, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States, Canada, Europe, Northern Asia

How To Identify Potentilla Bush

Looking for more Potentilla facts? Below, we’ll tell you how to recognize this beautiful plant.

Potentilla Leaves

While Potentilla leaves can be blue-green, gray-green, or dark-green, you can recognize them because they’re small, pinnate, and divided into three to seven leaflets with entire margins and acute ends.2 Despite their size, they can create quite dense foliage.

The leaves drop in the fall, which exposes the Potentilla’s reddish peeling bark.

Potentilla Flowers

One of the unique things about Potentilla flowers is they’re so profuse that they sometimes appear to smother the plant. They range from 1.2” to 1” across with colors including white, peach, pink, orange, red, and yellow. The shrub also produces unremarkable brown fruits.

Graphic showing how to identify potentilla plant with images of Potentilla leaves, a yellow Potentilla flower, and Potentilla seeds, alongside a map of the United States color-coded with average annual extreme minimum temperature ranges.

(Potentilla Seeds Image by: Wildfeuer7)

They’re not annual flowers, they do come back and produce strong blooms each year, and they have a long blooming season that extends from late spring to early autumn.1

Potentilla Seeds

Potentilla Seeds are best sown in late winter or early spring. They can be started indoors or planted from seed outdoors.

While the Shrubby Cinquefoil can survive in partial sun, these seeds are best sown in full sunlight. These plants produce about 50 seeds per flower.

Growing a Potentilla From a Seed, Cutting, or Seedling

Want to add Potentilla shrubs to your home garden? Regardless of whether you’re growing a Potentilla from a seed, cutting, or seedling, the Shrubby Cinquefoil is able to adapt to many different types of soil, as long as the soil is well-draining.

Looking for planting tips for Potentilla shrubs? You’ve come to the right place.

If you’re wondering how much sunlight does Potentilla need each day, planting in full sun is the best option if you want to get the best and brightest blooms with the most flowers. However, despite its toughness, Potentilla shrubs do not do well in hot, humid climates.

In areas with long steamy summers like Southern Florida, partial shade might be more beneficial.

If you’re growing Potentilla shrubs from seeds, then you’ll want to sow indoors in late winter or outdoors in early spring.

If planting outdoors, press the seeds into the soil, but do not cover them completely. This will help to maximize sun exposure.

Planting indoors during the winter is often when to plant Potentilla for the best yield. Seedlings can also be pricked into individual pots and grown indoors during their first winter before being placed into their permanent positions in late spring.

A cluster of blooming bright yellow Potentilla fruticosa flowers surrounded by green foliage in a natural setting.

(Image by: beauty_of_nature/jhenning5)

They’re easily transplanted and do well in 1-gallon or 5-gallon containers. 4 to 6 weeks is about how long it takes to grow Potentilla fruticosa seedlings.

If planting an established shrub, then dig a hole as deep as the root system and about twice as wide. You can add a thin layer of fertilizer at the bottom of the hole, then tightly backfill the space with the original soil.

The plant will need to be watered multiple times each day, especially in the first few weeks. Once established, Potentilla is drought-tolerant and can be watered less frequently.

Wondering how far apart to plant Potentilla? It ultimately comes down to the location and preferences, but anywhere between 3 and 6 feet apart should be adequate.

Potentilla shrubs can also be grown in a container. If you’re planning to take this approach, choose a pot that’s 12 inches wide with adequate drainage and fill it with potting mix.

Remember, potted plants need to be watered more frequently and also need fertilization.

Ideal Potentilla Growing Zone

Potentilla fruticosa (Shrubby Cinquefoil) is extremely durable and can withstand drought conditions, cold weather, and air pollution; however, these plants do not do well in areas with hot and humid summers. They are native to the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of Asia.

In the US, 2 through 7 are the best hardy-growing zones for Potentilla. Where to grow Potentilla for the best results ultimately comes down to sun exposure and well-drained soil.

However, this plant is capable of withstanding saline and acidic soils.

How To Care for a Shrubby Cinquefoil and Get Bright Blooming Potentilla Flowers

Many gardeners wonder how to care for a Shrubby Cinquefoil and get bright blooming Potentilla flowers each season. The Potentilla shrub is tough and sturdy, so it can also thrive in most environments.

It’s mostly care-free; however, regular maintenance can help you get the brightest and most beautiful blooms.

Because it is drought-resistant, watering needs for Potentilla plants are fairly minimal. After full maturity and once established in a permanent environment, these shrubs need to be watered about twice a week or whenever the soil is several inches dry.

If the shrub was recently planted or you’re growing from seed, then a robust daily watering schedule is necessary.

Fertilizing Potentilla is optional, the shrub can thrive without it, but you can add a slow-release granular fertilizer to each spring to help promote a healthy bloom. You should also mulch around the plant each spring to help the roots retain moisture and prevent weed growth.

Potentilla shrubs are resistant to most pests, but they can occasionally attract aphids, Japanese beetles, and lygus bugs.3 Horticultural oils can make for a good natural pest control for Potentilla.

Spraying water with a small amount of dish soap can also be effective. Deer, rabbits, and other animals stay away from Potentilla fruticosa for the most part; however, birds and small mammals will consume their seeds.

Throughout the west, elk and mountain goats will lightly graze on the flower in the wild, but only when other food sources are scarce.

Shrubby Cinquefoil is fairly resistant to diseases; however, certain conditions like too much moisture or inadequate air circulation can lead to down mildew, powdery mildew, lead spots, or rot. Reducing your watering schedule or ensuring the plant is in the best location can help with Potentilla disease prevention.

However, if you do notice signs of disease, you should prune any damaged or diseased branches as soon as possible.

Potentilla fruticosa blooms may not appear as profuse after 3 or 4 seasons.

Tips for Pruning a Potentilla Shrub

Regular pruning can help to maintain the health, shape, and overall aesthetic beauty of the Shrubby Cinquefoil. Pruning should be done in early spring before the plant starts to leaf out.

You should eliminate anywhere from 50% to 75% off the top, but make sure to maintain a mounded (somewhat rounded with a flat top) form. You should also remove the heaviest stems all the way to the ground.

Potentilla indica, Potentilla recta, and Other Related Species

There are over 300 species of Potentilla or Cinquefoils including Potentilla indica, Potentilla recta, and other related species.

Most Cinquefoils have palmate leaves with yellow, white, pink, or red flowers, and some have fruit.

A single yellow Potentilla flower in focus, with its delicate petals open against a softly blurred green background.

(Image by: Rajesh Balouria6)

It’s easy to mistake Potentilla fruticosa (Shrubby Cinquefoil) with Potentilla recta (the Sulphur Cinquefoil). This plant also produces beautiful five-petal flowers from palmate leaves and thrives in the same area as the Shrubby Cinquefoil, but it typically has long stalks and light green to greenish-yellow leaves.

Potentilla indica, also known as an Indian strawberry, is another common Cinquefoil found on lawns. This plant produces small fruit, which is edible but bland and dry.

Common Uses for Potentilla fruticosa (Shrubby Cinquefoil)

There are many common uses for Potentilla fruticosa. These shrubs are primarily used in landscape gardening as they make for beautiful hedging or great container plants for the front porch.

It’s also been useful in helping to control soil erosion and stormwater runoff. In addition to their aesthetic and functional landscaping benefits, Potentilla shrubs also have medicinal, cultural, and symbolic associations.

Potentilla fruticosa has historically been used in herbal medicine. The plant’s leaves can be boiled to make an herbal kuril tea.

Juice from Potentilla fruticosa roots used to be considered a natural treatment for indigestion. In some cultures, Potentilla flowers, leaves, and roots have been used to create medicine for the treatment of sore throats and painful menstrual periods; however, there is insufficient scientific evidence to measure the effectiveness.

Ingesting Potentilla has been known to cause side effects including stomach irritation.

Native Americans used Potentilla leaves, roots, and stems to create teas that were used to treat internal bleeding,4 tuberculosis, and a wide range of other medical conditions. They also believe that powdered leaves could protect the body from heat.

Potentilla symbolism dates back to the 11th century when the five-petaled flower was often incorporated into the architecture of churches across France. In heraldry, Potentilla were considered symbols of strength, power, honor, and loyalty.

Frequently Asked Questions About Potentilla (Shrubby Cinquefoil, Silverweed)

What Are the Best Growing Conditions for Potentilla (Shrubby Cinquefoil)?

Full sun is best in most climates, but partial sun might be better in areas with long, hot summers.

How Should I Go About Pruning Shrubby Cinquefoil?

Regular pruning can help promote healthy blooms each season. Always prune in the early spring and take 50% to 75% off the top, while leaving a mounded form.

What Is Potentilla Growth Rate?

Shrubby Cinquefoil grows pretty fast; however, when seeds are sown in early spring, Potentilla may not reach maturity in time for a full bloom during its first year, so growing from seedlings is often recommended to achieve optimal first-year results.

What Are the Best Companion Plants for Growing Potentilla?

Potentilla fruticosa loves sunlight, so pair it with any sun-loving plants like salvia, coreopsis, coneflowers, or veronica. Perennials with dark flowers look great against the bright bloom of a Potentilla.

Why Are Potentilla Called Five Fingers and Silverweeds?

Some plants associated with the genus Potentilla have been called Five Fingers and Silverweeds because they produce five-petaled blossoms, which can sometimes be gray or silver.

How To Stop Potentilla Disease From Spreading?

Potentilla is disease-resistant, but if you notice issues, prune affected limbs right away and temporarily reduce your watering schedule.


1Love, S. (2024). Shrubby Cinquefoil in the Landscape. University of Wyoming Extension. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from <https://cwelwnp.usu.edu/westernnativeplants/plantlist_view.php?id=70&name=dasiphorafruticosasspfloribunda>

2Oregon State University. (2024). Dasiphora fruticosa. Oregon State University Landscape Plants. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from <https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/dasiphora-fruticosa>

3Michigan State University. (2024). Shrubby Cinquefoil. Michigan State University. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from <https://www.canr.msu.edu/nativeplants/plant_facts/shrubby_cinquefoil>

4Utah State University. (2024). Shrubby Cinquefoil. Utah State University. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from <https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/cinquefoil-shrubby>

5Potentilla Goose Cinquefoil Photo by beauty_of_nature/jhenning. (2020, April 9) / Pixabay Content License. Resized and changed format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from <https://pixabay.com/photos/potentilla-goose-cinquefoil-5016042/>

6Potentilla Cinquefoils Yellow Flower Photo by Rajesh Balouria. (2022, August 22) / Pixabay Content License. Resized and changed format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from <https://pixabay.com/photos/potentilla-cinquefoils-yellow-flower-7374772/>

7Potentilla Seeds Photo by Wildfeuer. (2007, April 7) / CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Cropped and added image, text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2007-04-07Potentilla_fruticosa07.jpg>