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A shady perennial blooms for months

Corydalis ochroleuca, or yellow-white blooming corydalis, is a shade-loving perennial that begins blooming in spring and continues for months.

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Yellow-white blooming corydalis (Corydalis ochroleuca) begins blooming in mid-March in southern Indiana, and continues well into November. Here it grows in a shady spot with painted fern.

Courtesy of Gene Bush

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A few perennials in my garden have become backbones over the years -- perennials dependable not only for their good looks, but also for performance.

One such perennial at the top of my list is Corydalis ochroleuca, or yellow-white blooming corydalis. It begins blooming in mid-March here in southern Indiana, and continues well into November. An abundance of bloom on any perennial lasting this long in the Midwest is just short of a minor miracle.

Corydalis ochroleuca has creamy-white, pendulous blooms, with a soft-yellow lip.

Blooms are shaped like small tubes in a raceme. Flowers are always carried well above the foliage for a quiet, but very effective display. Height is about a foot or so, and it grows up to 18 inches across, with somewhat succulent stems. Leaves are multiple compound forming a full and bushy plant in softest blue-green. Seeds are tiny balls of dull black formed in slender pealike pods.

Where does it grow best?

When I think of perennials with delicate good looks, I tend to think along the lines of the more beautiful the plant, the more persnickety it is. This is certainly not the case with yellow-white corydalis. It performs best in dry, rocky shade.

My plants have prospered year in and year out on an embankment shored up by stones along a path. They have formed a drift located under two dwarf hemlocks which are, in turn, located under a mature cedar. The only moisture they can receive must come from storms which are strong enough to blow rain in and under all the evergreens.

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