McKay's White CinquefoilPotentilla fruticosa ‘McKay’s White’
View more from Other Shrubs & Hedges
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Potentilla fruticosa ‘McKay’s White’
Outdoor Growing zone
McKay’s White Cinquefoil grows quickly into a mounding deciduous shrub hardly more than 2 feet tall and wide. It has dark green leaves like tiny hands, divided into 5 slender leaflets, covered with delicate silver hairs. The 1-inch blooms are bowls of pure white with golden centers, carried all along the branches from May into September. This shrub is perfect for low-maintenance gardening, in garden beds, on slopes, among rocks and in planter boxes. It grows well even in urban settings and at the beach, thriving will almost no attention at all
Plant McKay’s White Cinquefoil in full sun for the best results, although it will tolerate a little shade. It grows even in warmer parts of zone 2, all the way into zone 7, taking both winter cold and summer heat. It grows readily in all well-drained soils, even poor soils and urban conditions, as well as tolerating salt-spray. Deer, pests and diseases normally leave it alone, as long as the soil isn’t wet and you can grow it without any attention at all. Trim as needed, and remove a few branches from older plants to regenerate them.
One of the great benefits of white as a color in the garden – and there are many – is the way it always looks attractive with all other colors. When you want to give existing plantings a lift, adding white-flowering plants is the simplest way. Professional gardeners have been using this trick for a century or two, so why not follow their lead? As well, when making a new planting, white flowers are an easy way to go – always bright, always bold, and whatever you add later, it will work. That’s why we recommend McKay’s White Cinquefoil as an ideal shrub to brighten your garden without adding gardening work to your already-busy schedule. Of all shrubs, cinquefoils are among the toughest and most reliable of all, thriving in any sunny spot, even in poor soils and dry areas. This compact shrub, about 2 feet tall and wide, is perfect for the foreground of your beds, or for planting in rock gardens, on slopes and among boulders – even if the soil looks poor and unlikely to grow much at all. Blooming from May to September, this great shrub brings brightness for the whole garden season – all this from just one plant, but a remarkable one.
McKay’s White Cinquefoil is a deciduous shrub that forms a dense mound, hardly more than 2 feet tall and a similar width. It is very bushy, with lots of compact small branches, so it has a casual and ‘natural’ look that fits well into all gardens. The stems have attractive pale-brown bark that shreds in long strips in an appealing way, and the leaves grow all along young stems, and in clusters along older ones. The leaves are divided into narrow, pointed leaflets that look like tiny hands, usually with 5 leaflets, but sometimes anything between 3 and 9 – have fun finding all possibilities on your plant. The leaves are smooth, but they feel soft and fuzzy because they are covered with a coating of fine white hairs, as are the young stems. The leaves are dark green, and the whole plant has an attractive silvery-green look. The leaves stay green late into fall, and they don’t color, just wither when it becomes cold enough.
This shrub flowers more or less continuously, all along the stems, from May to September, with an initial early profusion followed by continuing blooms partly influenced by the growing conditions of the plant. The individual flowers are an inch across, with 5 broad, glistening white petals surrounding a light-yellow center of stamens. Studding the branches, the flowers just keep coming and coming, so this plant is always appealing. It looks especially effective early in the morning and later in the evening – exactly when you are coming and going from home – McKay’s White Cinquefoil will wave goodbye and welcome you with its charm. Insignificant dry brown seed pods are produced but hardly noticed.
All cinquefoils are basic plants for easy-care gardening, and McKay’s White is no exception. Plant it in your shrub beds alongside almost any other plant, from shrubs to flowers. Use it as an edging along a bed, or along a path or driveway. Plant it on slopes – rocky or not, and if you can find a pocket of soil, it will grow. It is perfect in tough urban gardens, beach and country cottages where plants need to take care of themselves for most of the year, and also in planter boxes, where it will tolerate the occasional neglect that is almost inevitable. Spaced 18 inches apart, plants can also be clipped into an informal low hedge.
Even in warmer parts of zone 2, McKay’s White Cinquefoil will thrive, and certainly in all zones through to zone 7. In containers it will live all through winter from zone 4, if the container is on the ground – balconies are more difficult. If you can bury your pots in the garden, or place them on the ground and cover with straw, then it will come bouncing back the next spring even in zone 3.
It is best to plant McKay’s White Cinquefoil in full sun, although it will take a touch of shade in hotter zones at least. Too much shade will mean far fewer flowers, and a shorter blooming season. It grows well in all well-drained soils, but not where the soil is regularly wet and boggy. It grows in all types of soil, from sands and gravels to clays, and in both alkaline and acidic soils. Even poor urban soils are acceptable, so it’s a great choice for a city garden. It takes some salt-spray, so plant it at the beach. You will find, though, that plants that receive regular watering thank you by growing more vigorously and blooming more profusely.
You shouldn’t have any problems from pests, diseases or even from deer, and McKay’s White Cinquefoil pretty much takes care of itself, once it has established, which it does quickly. It benefits from a handful of shrub fertilizer in spring, and plants in pots should be given some liquid fertilizer a few times through spring and summer. You can trim it to keep it neat, or to maintain a more hedge-like look, ideally when it isn’t in its full flush of first blooms. After a few years, start removing about one-third of the oldest branches each spring, cutting back low down. This will encourage new shoots from the base, keeping it compact, neat and vigorous. Do this after the first blooming, or really, at any time through spring and summer.
The shrubby cinquefoil, Potentilla fruticosa, has a very wide distribution all around the northern end of the world. It can be found everywhere from China through Russia, in locations in Europe, Scandinavia and the British Isles, as well as all across the northern parts of North America. It usually grows in mountainous areas, in rough and rocky ground where few other shrubs survive. The variety we know as McKay’s White was found by an employee of McKay Nursery Company in Waterloo, Wisconsin. It was growing as a unique branch on a much larger, yellow-flowered variety from 1925 called ‘Katherine Dykes’.
We know you will find McKay’s White Cinquefoil one of the most useful and attractive shrubs in your garden, and perhaps the very best of all the white-flowering cinquefoils. For easy gardening and continuous color it simply can’t be beaten – so order now. Our stocks will soon be all gone.