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A Patch of Sundrops

You Can Grow That!

Patch of fast-spreading Sundrops

A lot of what’s in my dad’s garden was there when he moved into his apartment. There’s a boxwood on each side of his entrance walk and an impressive assortment of hostas for such a small space. At first, there might have been a Sundrop or two. Three years later, when I captured this photo, there was a jungle of Sundrops.

I’m still learning to want to grow ornamental plants. For me, gardening has always been about food. Touring show gardens, writing about gardening, and having many friends who are geniuses at landscape architecture and garden design has awakened in me a desire to have a pretty yard. Last summer a planting bed at my dad’s apartment reinforced that desire.

In very early summer, my dad’s garden sported a dense cloud of yellow: Flowers that glowed in the sunlight on 12-to-18-inch stalks. It was one of the most striking features I’d seen in any private garden, and I’ve visited a lot of stunning private gardens.

My Sundrop Awakening

I asked my dad if he knew what plant produced these arresting flowers and, happily, he did! “Sundrops,” he said.

I snapped a few photos and moved along but Sundrops were now in my mental catalog of plants to consider for my own yard. I hadn’t yet tracked down a nursery or garden center that sold Sundrops when this spring I once again visited my dad.

With virtually nothing growing, my dad’s garden still caught my eye. Where last summer there had been stalks of gorgeous yellow flowers, this spring there was a dense ground cover of green-and-purple-leafed plants. They were already growing despite spring having barely started.

Bucket of Sundrop plants

My dad’s Sundrop plants had shallow roots and I was able to dig about ten of them in just a few minutes. I’ll probably plant them in the corner of the yard under the apple trees and see how quickly they spread.

So, I asked my dad, “Are those Sundrops?”

He gave an affirmative and told me they were getting out of control. I was thrilled when he agreed I should dig some from around the edges of the patch. I filled a bucket with plants and quickly realized they spread via rhizomes: root-like shoots that radiated out through the soil specifically to push up new plants.

I’ve been warned that Sundrops spread aggressively… which was obvious from my dad’s Sundrop patch. When he moved into his apartment four years ago, I didn’t notice Sundrops there; in only three years they took over a six foot diameter area.

Sundrops in your garden

I did a little reading and found that Sundrops — also known as Evening Primrose — are hardy in zones 5 through 8. Supposedly, they need lots of sunlight, but sunlight reaching my dad’s garden is best suited for hostas; his Sundrops were doing fine.

Your Sundrops will do best in well-conditioned soil, but they grow naturally in many soil types from sand to loam. They handle drought well and once they’re established you may need to be brutal to keep them from spreading beyond your flower bed.

With gorgeous yellow flowers, attractive bi-colored foliage, and a tendency to spread aggressively, Sundrops make a terrific ground cover whose character changes from season to season.

Want a fast-spreading patch of bi-colored leaves that throw up a cloud of bright yellow flowers in late spring? You can grow that with Sundrops.

I reviewed the following websites for information about growing Sundrops:
www.perennialreference.com
www.newmoonnursery.com

 
Small Kitchen Garden – A Patch of Sundrops

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One Response to “A Patch of Sundrops”

  • I love the yellow blossoms myself. I am glad you didn’t buy them because they are frequently a passalong plant. I’ll never forget the first time a gardener shared them with me. She just yanked some out of the ground like you would yank a weed (ahem) and stuck them in a bag and handed them to me. Seeing my look of horror, she said, “Don’t worry, they’ll do fine.” And they did. I’m sure someone somewhere can’t grow them, but I haven’t met them yet. Now I use them as a ground cover along a roadside bed, interplanted with yellow daffodils. By the time the sundrops are done blooming, the daffodil foliage is done as well, and I can just string trim the whole mess. The sundrops don’t mind the heat of asphalt or the road grit and salt from snow removal and they do a good job keeping weeds down. They don’t look like much after the string trim but by then plants further back are stealing the show and no one driving by even notices them.

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