How to Grow and Care for Lesser Celandine

How to Grow and Care for Lesser Celandine

How to Grow and Care for Lesser Celandine

Overview of Lesser Celandine

Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna, also known as fig buttercup) is a perennial flowering plant native to Europe and western Asia. This low-growing spring ephemeral is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and produces cheerful, buttercup-like flowers in early spring before the foliage appears.

Some key facts about lesser celandine:

  • Growth habit: Herbaceous perennial, dying back to tubers in summer
  • Height: 4-8 inches tall
  • Spread: Rapidly spreading groundcover, can be aggressive
  • Flowers: Bright yellow, 1-1.5 inches diameter, with 7-12 petals; bloom in early spring
  • Leaves: Dark green, heart-shaped leaves that emerge after flowering
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 6-9

Lesser celandine grows best in moist, humus-rich soils and partial to full shade. It spreads quickly via tubers and can naturalize to form dense carpets in optimum growing conditions. This makes it well-suited as a groundcover for shady areas. However, it can be overly aggressive in some regions, leading it to be classified as an invasive exotic plant in parts of North America.

How to Grow Lesser Celandine

Site Selection

When choosing a site to grow lesser celandine, select a location with the following:

  • Part to full shade – Lesser celandine thrives in shade and will tolerate deep shade. Dappled sunlight is ideal.
  • Moist, humus-rich soil – Lesser celandine prefers consistently moist, organic soil that is high in humus content. Poor drainage can lead to tuber rot.
  • Groundcover role – Lesser celandine is best utilized as a groundcover due to its spreading habit. Use it as an underplanting for shrubs and trees.

Avoid planting lesser celandine in hot, dry sites as it requires cool temperatures and adequate moisture to thrive. Also avoid overly wet sites prone to waterlogging.

Planting

Lesser celandine is best planted in fall, allowing the tubers to establish roots before flowering in spring. Here are some tips for planting:

  • Purchase tubers – You can find tubers at some nurseries and online sources. Try to buy from a reputable grower.
  • Space 12 inches apart – Space the tubers about 12 inches apart when planting. They will quickly fill in to form a solid mass.
  • Plant 2 inches deep – Place the tubers 2 inches deep in the soil, covering with soil.
  • Water thoroughly – Water the tubers well after planting to encourage rooting.

Maintain consistent soil moisture after planting. You can also propagate established plants by dividing the tubers in early fall.

Growing Conditions

Once planted, lesser celandine requires the following care:

  • Water regularly – Provide at least 1 inch of water per week. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  • Mulch annually – Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch like wood chips each spring. This helps retain soil moisture.
  • Partial to full shade – Maintain partial to full shade over the plants. Avoid hot afternoon sun exposure.
  • Rich, humus-rich soil – Replenish the soil with compost or leaf mold annually to maintain organic matter.
  • Divide when overcrowded – Divide congested tuber clumps every 2-3 years to encourage vigorous growth.

With the proper growing conditions, lesser celandine will thrive and spread into a lush carpet of foliage and flowers in spring.

Caring for Lesser Celandine

Caring for lesser celandine primarily involves supporting the growing conditions it prefers as described above. Here are some additional care tips:

Weeding

Keep the planting area free of weeds which can compete for nutrients and moisture. Hand pull weeds regularly, taking care not to damage the shallow tubers of the celandine. Apply mulch around the plants to suppress weeds.

Watering

Provide supplemental water during dry periods to maintain evenly moist soil. Drought stress can cause the foliage to die back prematurely. Install soaker hoses or drip irrigation to simplify watering.

Fertilizing

Apply a balanced organic fertilizer or compost 1-2 times per year in early spring and mid-fall. This provides nutrients to support growth and flowering.

Deadheading

Deadhead spent flowers by pinching or snipping off the flower stalks. This neatens up the planting and prevents excessive self-seeding.

Pest and Disease Control

Lesser celandine has few serious pest or disease problems. Occasional issues include powdery mildew foliage disease, leaf spot, nematodes, slugs and snails. Maintain vigor through proper culture and remove affected foliage promptly.

Dormancy Care

Lesser celandine dies back completely to its tubers by early summer. Allow the foliage to naturally yellow and die back and avoid cutting it prematurely. Keep watering the planting to keep the tubers from desiccating until they become dormant for the season.

With attention to its preferences for moist, rich soil and partial to full shade, lesser celandine is an easy plant to grow as a charming spring ephemeral in the shade garden! It does require management in some areas to keep its spreading habit in check but otherwise is a relatively carefree perennial.