My long-time readers know how much I love kerria (kerria japonica). A spring never goes by without one of my photos of the gorgeous buttery yellow blooms. I may even have another shot in late summer when my shrubs give me a few miscellaneous second blooms. And although the plant has no fall color to speak of, it’s a standout in winter as well for its fabulous green twigs.
Much is made of colorful bark or colorful stems for winter interest, and the plants that are always discussed are the red and yellow twigged dogwoods (cornus sericea or cornus alternifolia). Proven Winners has come out with two cultivars that are shorter and more colorful than their parents were. Their trade names are Arctic Sun (for the yellow variety) and Arctic Fire (for the red, of course).
But very few writers talk about the attributes of kerria as a winter landscape plant.
The shrub is easy care, has no pests or diseases that I’m aware of, (although the UConn extension service names leaf spot and twig blight as possible problems) and best of all for those of us in tree covered New England, it actually prefers part shade.
Mine is in dense shade all summer once the trees above it leaf out, but in winter and early spring–the time when it blooms–it’s in full sun. I think that helps the blossoms stand out (although again, UConn says they may bleach out in full sun. That may be for warmer regions of the country.) It’s hard to find shrubs that will tolerate that. The evergreens that I have in that spot will often winter burn (from the early hot sun and not enough moisture in the soil, usually). And evergreens in deep shade can often get “lost” in the lack of light on the site.
For a bright, early flowering, shade tolerant shrub with great winter interest, this plant can’t be beaten!