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Flowers, Xeriscape Gardens

Oenothera Fruticosa: How To Grow Narrowleaf Sundrops


6 min read

Oenothera fruticosa, commonly known as Southern sundrops or sundrops, is a tall-standing, day-flowering plant that produces beautiful, terminal clusters of bright yellow flowers in late spring and summer. The lance-shaped, fresh green leaves of the Oenothera fruticosa are a little jagged.

The plant is called sundrops, thanks to the cup-like flowers that bloom during the day. Even though each flower is short-lived, they grow in succession through a period of two months. You can grow this low-maintenance flowering plant in your garden under full sun as a xeriscape plant.

Quick Care Guide

A carpet of Oenothera fruticosa evening primrose in the garden.
Oenothera fruticosa growing in an English garden. Source: wallygrom
Common Name(s): Narrow-leaf evening primrose or narrow-leaved sundrops
Scientific NameOenothera fruticosa
Family:Onagraceae
Zone:4-9
Height & Spread:1-3′ tall and wide
LightFull sun to part shade
SoilWell-draining soils
Water:Tolerant of dry conditions
Pests & Diseases:Fairly resistant to deer, rabbits, etc.

All About Oenothera Fruticosa

Gorgeous yellow cup-shaped leaves
A close-up of the gorgeous yellow cup-like petals. Source: beautifulcataya

The narrow-leaf primrose (Oenothera fruticosa) is a flowering plant that is part of the evening primrose family Onagraceae. It is native to many parts of Canada, Hawaii, Greenland, and Eastern North America, where you can find it growing in dry woodlands, wild gardens, moist savannas, and rocky outcrops. It is a tall herbaceous plant that grows to a height of 1-3′ ft.

In your garden, grow pretty Oenothera fruticosa as a garden border and in your rocky or drought-tolerant gardens. Cottage gardens, native plant areas, rock gardens, and rock outcrops are perfect for this native plant of eastern North America. The sundrop tolerates poor soils, requires medium maintenance and attracts native bees at the same time.

Botanically, this plant is a perennial wildflower with lanceolate leaves, pubescent leaf blades, red stems, and cup-like yellow blooms. In spring, reddish basal leaves form from overwintered seeds, and the plant matures and blooms in May and June. Unlike its relative primroses, this day-flowering member of the same family is a lovely wild plant that is perfect for beds designed to feed birds. Specifically, the seeds are a primary food source for the mourning dove.

Even though sundrops are a particular species in the primrose family, they have two commonly grown cultivars – ‘Fireworks’ and ‘African Sun.’ The ‘Fireworks’ cultivar has dark yellow flowers that emerge from red buds. The foliage is deep bronze, and the stems have a slight tinge of red to them. ‘African Sun’ has bright yellow cup-like flowers, creating a gorgeous mat of yellow in your landscape.

Oenothera Fruticosa Care

Field of narrow-leaved sundrops
Field of narrow-leaved sundrops. Source: dogtooth77

Fruticosa Oenothera is a pretty low-maintenance perennial plant. Here’s how you can properly take care of your yellow sundrops flower.

Light & Temperature

These plants, belonging to the primrose family, can be found growing in sunny sandy USDA hardiness zones of 4 to 9. They thrive under full sun; however, you can also grow them under light shade. The minimum temperature requirements of these plants are -33°F. In early spring, they’ll emerge and begin blooming in late spring to summer. Then they die back in the fall as a part of their natural life cycle.

Water

This plant is fairly drought tolerant and does not need a lot of water to thrive, so make sure that you water your plant sparingly. Medium moisture upon planting seeds is great. Once they’re blooming, you won’t need to irrigate.

Soil

These plants thrive in soil pH levels of 5 to 6. You can easily grow your flowers in moderately fertile, well-draining soils. The soil moisture requirement of these plants ranges from dry to medium. Poor soils can also support the life of these lovely flowers, but well-drained soils are a must.

Fertilizer

It doesn’t require fertilizer at all. The bloom time of your plants will reduce or become non-existent if you fertilize too heavily. Avoid adding large amounts of nutrients or too much water.

Propagation

You can propagate your flowers via their seeds. They are very easy to spread, so take care to keep them in check. Since these plants are native to dry woodlands and sunny savannas, transplant your store-bought or divided sundrops in a sunny area with a good amount of light and heat. They will drop their seed capsule after blooming and re-seed easily wherever they are planted.

Pruning

If the foliage of your Oenothera dies back post-flowering after summer, you can prune the stems to the basal rosette to encourage new growth. Other than removing any plants that have spread out of the area you wish to cultivate, you won’t need to prune.

Troubleshooting

Sundrop with very minor leaf spot
Sundrop with very minor leaf spot. Source: tgpotterfield

This plant is fairly easy to grow since it is resistant to pests and diseases. However, here are some growing problems that your fruticosa oenothera might face.

Growing Problems

Make sure that your Oenothera fruticosa gets at least 6 hours of sun during the day since it needs direct sunlight to thrive, bloom and form in your garden. Also, don’t over-water or fertilize your plant, as it prefers dry soil.

Pests

It is resistant to pests. While a few opportunistic pests may nibble on it, it shouldn’t become a problem.

Diseases

It is not susceptible to any diseases other than a few leaf spots that do no serious harm. Your primrose won’t have any significant disease problems. This is why it’s a great plant to grow!

Frequently Asked Questions

Oenothera fruticosa flowers
Oenothera fruticosa flowers. Source: dogtooth77

Q: Is Oenothera deer resistant?

A: Yes, Oenothera fruticosa is resistant to deer as well as rabbits.

Q: Are sundrops perennial?

A: These plants are perennial plants, i.e., they will last for at least two years when you grow them in your garden.

Q: Is Oenothera fruticosa invasive?

A: This plant is native to most of the southeast US, but it is sometimes called “invasive” due to its weedy habit of spreading. However, it’s not invasive at all.

Q: Does evening primrose like sun or shade?

A: It’s a full sunlight plant but can tolerate some partial shade. It’s great for hard afternoon sun areas.

Q: Do Sundrop flowers spread?

A: They do, so ensure you’ve planted them somewhere that you don’t mind them spreading or that you’re willing to maintain.

Q: Are sundrops the same as evening primrose?

A: They are in the same family, but they are different species.

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