How to Grow and Care for Buttercup Bush

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Buttercup bush is a member of the passionflower family in the turnera genus. It is a low-growing shrub with long-lasting, cheerful yellow flowers. 

Sometimes it is considered a weed, as it is fast-growing and has a tendency to spread. Native to the Caribbean, this plant can flower year-round in the right growing conditions.

This perennial, also known as the yellow elder, is very easy to grow.


Since it first became classified in the late 1880s, buttercup bush has been reported as a naturalized weed in many states. In several parts of the world, it is categorized as invasive and subject to herbicidal control.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameTurnera Ulmifolia
Common namesButtercup bush, yellow elder, ramgoat dashalong
FamilyTurneraceae (sometimes classified as a  member of Passifloraceae)
HeightUp to 2 feet (0.61 meters)
WidthUp to 2 feet (0.61 meters)
USDA Plant Hardiness ZoneZones 9 to 11
Native toCaribbean, parts of South and Central America
Blooming seasonyear-long
Flower colorsyellow
Plant specific featuresAttracts butterflies, flowers all year

How to Plant and Grow a Buttercup Bush

To form effective ground cover using this plant, space the buttercup bush shrubs a few feet apart. Once they are established, you can cut them back to keep them low to the ground.

Where to Plant

T. ulmifolia is a very adaptable shrub and will grow in a wide range of places, It’s a useful choice for planting at the front of a perennial border, for mass planting, or for ground cover. 

Because the flowers are only fully open in the sun, you may wish to consider planting alongside a flowering plant that blooms even on cloudy or overcast days. You will then have color, whatever the weather.

When to Plant

This is a perennial that can be planted at any time of the year.

Buttercup Shrubs Care and Maintenance


Buttercup bush can be planted successfully in all soil types, including acidic, alkaline, and dry soil. Be wary, though, as T. ulmifolia doesn’t like to sit in wet, water-retaining soil. 


Once established, this is a fair drought-tolerant plant, which will not suffer too much from prolonged periods of hot, dry weather.


You do not need to feed buttercup bush. It will flower just as well without fertilizing and still keep its dark green foliage. 


Choose a spot that receives at least some sun. It will tolerate both sun and shade. If it gets sun and some shade, you will have the best results. The flowers open in sunlight and close once the sun goes down. 

Pruning and Repotting

Being a low-maintenance plant, pruning isn’t necessary. But, in order to keep the plant low-growing, and thicker, it is necessary to cut it down. This will ensure that you don’t end up with a leggy plant. 

If left alone, it will grow tall because it doesn’t branch naturally. Pruning therefore keeps it in good shape, with plenty of low-growing flowering stems.


This is a woody, perennial shrub that produces many, many seeds. For this reason, it can get out of hand and understandably is considered invasive in some areas. 

If you really need to propagate buttercup bush shrubs, other than from the naturally occurring seedlings that will emerge all around, then the best way is by taking cuttings. 

From cuttings, you can expect a high success rate. The stems root easily, and it is a fast-growing plant.

Pests and diseases

The plant attracts butterflies and other pollinators. These insects adore the bright yellow flowers! Unfortunately, the buttercup bush also attracts non-welcome aphids and scale insects. 

If the buttercup bush is left sitting in wet soil, then it is prone to disease and its leaves may turn yellow. 

This can also occur after a prolonged period of rainy weather. Try to water at the base of the plant, to prevent the foliage from becoming too wet. 

Pruning can also help to keep the plants healthy, but it is important that you remove all vegetation that is dead, damaged, or diseased.

Temperature and Humidity

 If grown at the cooler end of the growing zones, buttercup bush may die back in the winter. However, it is unlikely to die, and most probably will grow back the following spring.

Other Uses for Yellow Elder

Although it is a great plant for attracting butterflies, no part of this plant should be ingested without medical advice. There are some scientific studies that promote the use of the plant as a beneficial medicinal herb. 

In some parts of the world, the buttercup bush leaves are used to make an infusion. This is used to treat premature hair loss, gastrointestinal problems, and for infant care.

Types of Buttercup Bush You Can Grow

There are over 100 species of flowering perennials in the Turnera (formerly passionflower) genus. Most of these plants are tropical or sub-tropical and the buttercup bush T. ulmifolia is often seen growing wild on roadsides.


Although this is grown as an ornamental, it is less outstanding than many alternatives. Its advantages however are ease of care, year-long flowering, and the ability to provide effective ground cover very quickly.

*image by etfoto/depositphotos

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