Content Detail

Yellowroot is a small, woody perennial that forms a dense carpet that reaches 1 to 3 feet high. This east coast native is found in damp woods, stream banks, and wet depressions. The best feature is the yellow to red to purple fall color. The roots are yellow and were once used to make dye.

  • Family (English) Buttercup
  • Family (botanic) Ranunculaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches), Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 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, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Alkaline soil, Moist, Sandy soil, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous, Purple
  • Shape or form Creeping, Multi-stemmed, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Has cultivars No

Size & Form:

Yellowroot is a 2 to 3 feet high spreading woody ground cover that forms a large colony.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to the eastern United States from Maine to northern Florida and west to eastern Texas. C-Value: 3  

Bark color and texture: 

Stems are smooth and gray-brown. Roots and inner bark are bright yellow.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

Alternate, pinnately compound leaves have three to five leaflets and are 4 to 8 inches long. They are yellow-green with serrate to deeply toothed margins. The petioles are long and slender, lustrous bright green, changing to golden yellow in the fall. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Drooping clusters of five-petaled, star-like flowers are  yellow to purple-brown, appearing in early spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

A star-shaped cluster of follicles (dehiscent capsule), the fruits are initially green and fleshy, then drying and turning brown.

Plant care:

Best in average to moist, acidic to neutral soils in full sun to partial shade, yellowroot is adaptable to most soil types.  It does best in moist soil, but will not tolerate very heavy clay soils. Found along streams and river banks. May be difficult to find in nurseries.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

None serious.


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