Caltha – Kingcup

Height: 15-90cm (6-36in)

Water depth: up to 15cm (Gin)

Features: flowers spring to summer

Soil: moist

Site: sun or partial shade

Type: marginal

In late winter, few sights are more encouraging than the newly emerging leaves of kingcups. The golden, buttercup-like heads follow in spring, on thick, fleshy stems.

Popular species and varieties:

Caltha palustris grows into a 30-45cm tall clump of dark green, heart-shaped leaves. It has single, golden yellow flowers in mid spring. Varieties include ‘More Pleno’, a free-flowering form with double yellow flowers, and the smaller alba, I 5cm (6in), with single white flowers and yellow stamens. The latter prefers moist soil or up to 2.5cm ( 1 in) of water. Caltha polypetala (giant kingcup) reaches 90cm (3ft) tall and has a sprawling habit. The dark green leaves and golden yellow flowers are larger than those of C. palustris, and appear later in the season.


Plant early spring to early autumn in sun or light shade, in water up to 15cm (6in) deep, or in moist soil.

Propagation: Divide and replant the roots in late spring or early summer. The double form does not produce seed; germination of species seed is erratic, and the seedlings variable.

Pests and diseases: Rust and mildew can be a nuisance.

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