Content Detail

The intricate, delicate foliage, paired with the white flowers that look like pantaloons, make Dutchman’s breeches a must-have plant for any shade garden. They are great additions to a shady area of a pollinator garden, as they attract bees, butterflies, and songbirds alike. Dutchman’s breeches will make way for other summer blooms, as they will die back after springtime (spring ephemeral). This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Poppy (formerly Fumitory)
  • Family (botanic) Papaveraceae (formerly Fumariaceae)
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small plant (6-12 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist
  • Tolerances Dry sites
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance White, Yellow
  • Shape or form Arching, Irregular
  • Growth rate Slow

Size and method of spreading:

Dutchman’s breeches are typically 3 to 6 inches tall and 6 to 8 inches wide. Often, Dutchman’s breeches are readily spread by root tubers to form ground cover. The seeds are also spread by ants. They can also be divided in the early spring or after the leaves have started to die back. Seeds are best spread in the springtime or as soon as they ripen.

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Dutchman’s breeches are native to the Eastern and Central United States as well as the Pacific Northwest. C Value: 7.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Dutchman’s breeches attract songbirds, butterflies, and various species of bees, particularly long-tongued bees that can reach the nectar.

Leaf description:

The frilly, deeply cut (compound) leaves of Dutchman’s breeches resemble ferns or parsley leaves. They are bluish-green in color. Typically, there will be two leaves to every flowering stem that occur at the base of the plant (basal). The edges of the leaves are smooth (entire margins) and lack hair (glabrous).

Flower description:

Dutchman’s breeches have 3 to 14 flowers that grow along a leafless stem (raceme) and dangle, looking a bit like pantaloons drying on a clothesline. The stem of flowers often arches under the weight of the blooms. The flowers are mostly white with yellow lobes on the opposite side of the flower from where it attaches to the stem. The white portions are hollow sacs (spurs) formed by the petals.

Fruit description:

The fruit of Dutchman’s breeches resemble little one-half-inch green beans with tapered ends (capsule) and appear from May to June.

Plant care:

This is a deer- and rabbit-resistant perennial. Dutchman’s breeches are low maintenance and require little care. 

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

There are no major pests or diseases affecting Dutchman’s breeches, but snails and slugs may appear.


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