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Turnera ulmifolia

Turnera ulmifolia
Self-sown stand near where the original plant lived
yellow buttercup; yellow alder; sage rose

Common name yellow buttercup; yellow alder; sage rose
Family turneraceae
Life cycle tender perennial/shrub (Z9-11)
Flowers yellow (summer-fall)
Size 24-36"
Light sun-light shade
Cultural notes well drained soil, drought-tolerant
From seed reseeds in our garden
Flowers first year from seed sown indoors early.

Two-inch yellow buttercup flowers on a rounded evergreen shrub, open in the morning and close in late afternoon. It's among my favorite border plants in our Texas garden: in bloom through most of the season, not bothered by heat or drought, and looking like a solid deep green mass even when flowers are sparse. The serrated leaves are supposedly fragrant (but I haven't noticed that), and the flowers, which open in the morning and close by late afternoon, attract butterflies and other pollinators. So I'm surprised that it's not more popular around here.

Turnera ulmifolia
Flowers close in a spiral fashion late afternoon
yellow buttercup; yellow alder; sage rose
Seedpod hidden underneath the leaves

Yellow buttercup is generally hardy in our Gulf Coast garden. The top growth is not freeze-tolerant: even a mild freeze is sufficient to kill the leaves. The winter after we first planted our first plant had a harsh spell into the mid-teens with freezing rain, and our plant did not return that spring – but its seedlings did, emerging in the middle of March and growing to blooming size by mid-summer. The stand was impressively dense by early fall, until a November freeze knocked them back. The two winters since then have been milder overall, though, and the new stand has proved to be root-hardy, returning strongly each spring. For the longest time, I was puzzled by the self-seeding: superficial inspection of blooming plants never revealed anything but flowers and buds, no seeds. It wasn't until I looked more carefully that I spotted the seedpods; even on a profusely blooming plant, there are typically only a few, hidden underneath the leaves, usually empty because they drop their seeds quickly, and the pods themselves drop to the ground shortly afterwards. Once I figured that out, I was able to collect some seed, but most seed is deposited on the ground below – ready to replace the mother plant should another deep freeze come along. Which it did, in February 2021, which again outright killed all plants. This time, volunteer seedlings took a long time to show up, not emerging until late May.

Turnera ulmifolia
Seedlings in mid-March following the winter demise of mother plant
yellow buttercup; yellow alder; sage rose
Bigger seedlings in early June
Turnera ulmifolia
Touched by a mild freeze, November 2018

First-year performance

yellow buttercup; yellow alder; sage rose
Just planted, early June
Turnera ulmifolia
Growing nicely, mid-August
yellow buttercup; yellow alder; sage rose
In early fall of year one, pairing nicely with the neighboring salvia 'Wendy's Wish'

In our garden, this plant grows in the following area: back fence border

About my plant portraits
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