How to Grow: Corydalis

Listen to this podcast on growing and caring for cordyalis perennial groundcover.

 

This spring blooming ground cover often carpets areas under deciduous trees and in gardens with its pink or white blooms. This tuberous plant has been used in Chinese medicine from chronic pain relief. What is this spring beauty? It’s corydalis.

Corydalis is a poppy family wildflower related to bleeding hearts that grows wild in open areas but also can be cultivated in the garden. The most common and hardiest type has pink or white flowers. I often admire a stand of this beauty under a grove of black locust trees near our home. The foliage is deeply serrated and looks like a fern leaf bleeding heart. The small flowers resemble larkspurs and bloom in abundance. Corydalis loves to spread. Once happy in a part shade location it can self sow and create a carpet of color in a few years.

While the pink or white flowered Corydalis solida is most common there are other beautiful colored versions. Corydalis lutea has bright yellow colored flowers and it will bloom all summer. The same is true of the striking ‘Blue Panda’ Corydalis elata. A friend had some in a container last year and they were stunning. Unfortunately, the yellow and blue flowering corydalis aren’t as hardy as the wild ones.

Plant corydalis under deciduous trees, in shade garden or rock garden. They like an organic soil with a neutral pH. You can help the wild ones move around by dividing the plants after flowering. Usually they self sow so readily, though, that stopping them from moving is more the issue! Weed out seedlings in spring and mulch around the area with shredded bark to slow their progress.

Excerpted from the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.

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