Hardy plants useful for ground covers and borders, with bright green or gray-green leaves divided into small leaflets. Small, roselike, typically single flowers come in white; cream; and soft to bright shades of pink, red, yellow, and orange. Cinquefoils typically prefer cool nights and cool soils. Deer don't usually bother them.
These include creeping plants used as ground covers as well as sturdy, clumping types for rock gardens or perennial borders. Leaves are divided fanwise into leaflets and are reminiscent of strawberry foliage; flowers are generally about 1 in. wide.
P. atrosanguinea. RUBY CINQUEFOIL. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Sprawling, mounding Himalayan native to 1 ft. high, 2 ft. wide, with furry, three-leafleted, 2- to 3-in.-long leaves and red blossoms in summer. A parent of superior hybrids such as 1- to 2-ft. 'Flamenco', bearing blood red flowers with a dark center; 1-ft. 'Gibson's Scarlet', bright red with dark center; and 'William Rollison', semidouble bright orange with yellow center.
P. nepalensis. NEPAL CINQUEFOIL. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. From the Himalayas. To 12 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Leaves are 34 in. long, divided into five roundish leaflets; branching clusters of purplish red blossoms in summer. Selections are superior to the species for borders, cut flowers. 'Melton Fire', 1215 in. high, bears bright red blooms marked with yellow and blending to a deep red center. 'Miss Willmott', 1012 in. high, has salmon-pink flowers. 'Ron McBeath' bears carmine blooms with distinctly heart-shaped petals.
P. neumanniana 'Nana'. DWARF SPRING CINQUEFOIL. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Dainty-looking yet tough and persistent creeping ground cover. Grows quickly to 36 in. high and about 1 ft. wide. Bright green leaves divided into five leaflets; butter yellow, -in. flowers in spring and summer. Takes more water than other cinquefoils but also tolerates heat and drought. May turn brown in cold winters. Foliage blankets the ground completely yet is permeable enough to be a good bulb cover. Good lawn substitute for no-traffic areas; mow annually before spring growth begins. Subject to a disfiguring rust in some areas.
P. recta 'Warrenii'. WARREN'S SULFUR CINQUEFOIL. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Selection of a European species. Grows 2 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide, with 4-in. leaves divided into five to seven leaflets. Profuse show of bright yellow flowers in late spring. Tolerates a wide range of soils.
P. x tonguei. STAGHORN CINQUEFOIL. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Hybrid between P. nepalensis and another species. Creeping plant to just 4 in. tall, with foot-long stems and 2-in. leaves divided into three to five leaflets. Blooms in late spring or summer, bearing -in.-wide apricot flowers with a red center.
The shrubby potentillas, most often sold as named forms of bush cinquefoil (P. fruticosa), are native to northern latitudes everywhere. They perform well in Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. All have leaves divided into three to seven leaflets; some are distinctly green on top, gray beneath, while others look more gray-green all over. All bloom cheerfully from late spring to early fall.
Fairly trouble free. Best in well-drained soil with moderate water, but tolerate poor soils, limestone, drought, heat. Selections with red or orange tinting should be grown in light shade, since they tend to fade quickly in hot sun. After bloom period ends, cut out older stems from time to time to make room for new growth. Here are some of the selections found in garden centers.
'Abbotswood'. To 3 ft. high and wide, with dark blue-green leaves, 2-in. white flowers.
'Elizabeth'. Grows 3 ft. high, 3 ft. wide, with bright yellow blooms.
'Goldfinger'. Dense-foliaged, dark green plant to 3 ft. tall, 4 ft. wide, with golden yellow, 1-in. blooms.
'Gold Star'. To 2 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide, with large, deep green leaves and 2-in. bright yellow flowers.
'Jackman's Variety'. To 4 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide, with 1-in., bright yellow blossoms.
'Katherine Dykes'. Can reach 5 ft. but usually stays much lower; spreads at least as wide as high. Pale yellow, 1-in. flowers.
'Klondike'. Dense grower to 2 ft. high and wide; 1- to 2-in. yellow blossoms.
'Mount Everest'. Bushy, upright grower to 4 ft. high and wide; 1-in. pure white blooms.
'Pink Beauty'. To 3 ft. high and wide, with profuse clear pink blooms.
'Primrose Beauty'. Silvery gray-green foliage on a plant 23 ft. high and wide. Pale yellow, 1-in. flowers.
'Princess'. To 2 ft. high, 34 ft. wide. Soft pink flowers.
'Red Ace'. To 2 ft. high, 34 ft. wide. Flowers are 1 in. wide, bright red with yellow center and yellow petal backs. Blooms fade to yellow as they age (fading is rapid in hot summer weather or poor growing conditions).
'Sunset'. To 22 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide, with bright green foliage, 1-in. yellow flowers shaded orange.
'Sutter's Gold'. To 1 ft. high, spreading to 3 ft. Clear yellow flowers about 1 in. across.
'Tangerine'. To 2 ft. high and wide, with bright yellow-orange, 1-in. blooms.