Corydalis Lutea: Plant Care Tips for the Yellow Corydalis

Corydalis Lutea [kor-ID-ah-liss, LOO-tee-uh] is an easy plant to cultivate featuring a neat mound of ferny green foliage and delicate yellow flowers.

This plant belongs to the Pseudofumaria genus and the Papaveraceae (poppy) family of plants.

Yellow Flowers of Corydalis LuteaPin

It’s native to the foothills of the Alps in Switzerland and Italy, but commonly grown around the world. 

The short-lived perennial also has a couple of common names including:

  • Yellow corydalis
  • Rock fumewort
  • Yellow fumitory

Corydalis Lutea Care

Size and Growth

Yellow corydalis produces fern-like leaves and foliage. 

The leaves are yellowish-green or light green and stay on the plant throughout the year. 

It typically reaches a height of 15” inches and produces a spread of 18” inches, but often grows in groups providing cover or foliage for borders.

Leaves are distinctive, with their three-lobed leaflets resembling the closely related bleeding-heart plant (Corydalis Dicentra) or maiden hair ferns.

Flowering and Fragrance

Yellow corydalis has bright yellow flowers. 

They’re short, measuring just under one inch and featuring four petals.

It’s a later bloomer, with tubular flowers appearing in May and lasting through September. 

Light and Temperature

Yellow corydalis grows best in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10. 

These areas average 84° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C) throughout the warmer seasons. 

However, it doesn’t grow well in hot, humid weather, such as the typical climate in the deep South. 

It also thrives in cooler climates with limited humidity, but may not produce full blooms. 

In these areas, it tends to self-seed and spread vigorously, growing like a weed. 

Plant under partial shade to full sun. 

Strong sunlight may stunt growth or scorch the leaves.

Watering and Feeding

Water the plant frequently, ensuring the soil remains moist and never dries out unless planting under full or part shade.

In full shade, allow the soil to dry on the surface before watering.

Avoid watering outdoor plants in the winter, as wet soil in the colder weather may kill the plant.

It benefits from plant food several times per week throughout the warmer months. 

Use a liquid fertilizer when watering until after the bloom ends.

Soil and Transplanting

Use rich, well-drained soil. 

Drainage remains especially important for the yellow corydalis.

It needs moist soil during the warmer months but may suffer from fungal infections or root rot if overwatered. 

Overwatering also increases the risk of starving the plant of nutrients, yellowing the leaves, and eventually proving fatal.

Add perlite, peat moss, or organic matter to the soil to improve drainage.

If grown outdoors, transplanting isn’t necessary. 

It’s rarely grown as a potted plant. 

If it’s grown in a pot, refresh the soil every two to three years.

Grooming

Grooming isn’t needed, but it helps deal with stunted foliage.

During hot, humid hot summers, the foliage may wilt or appear depreciated. 

Cut the plants back to the basal leaves to allow new growth the following year.

Propagating Yellow Corydalis

Propagate yellow corydalis by seed or division. 

Divide the plants during the late spring or early fall.

Dividing the plant is the easiest way to propagate corydalis lutea. 

  • Dig up the soil around the plant and remove a portion of the root system using gardening shears.
  • Plant the separated yellow corydalis in its new home. 
  • Use liquid fertilizer when watering the plants until the end of the season.

Corydalis lutea produces numerous seeds. 

  • Collect the fresh seeds in the fall and plant in containers. 
  • Use moist potting soil with medium drainage. 
  • Place a plastic bag over the pot and store it at room temperature for about six weeks.
  • For the seventh and eighth weeks, keep the containers at near-freezing temperatures. 
  • Starting in the ninth week, move the plant to a cool room with temperatures between 50° – 60° degrees Fahrenheit (10° – 15° C).

Seedlings should appear within a few weeks. 

If there is no sign of germination, repeat the entire cycle, storing the container at room temperature for six weeks.

After the seedlings appear, remove the plastic bag. 

In the spring, move the plants outdoors.

After the plants adapt to the outdoor weather, transplant them to their permanent homes.

Yellow Corydalis Pest or Diseases

Yellow corydalis doesn’t suffer from any significant pest or disease issues. 

If any common pests appear, such as whiteflies or spider mites, brush or spray them off. 

For severe infestations, treat the plant with a suitable insecticide. 

Unlike some of the other corydalis species, the lutea variety isn’t considered invasive. 

While it spreads easily on its own, the fragile root system keeps it from overpowering other plants.

The plant does contain toxins which may cause irritation when ingested in large quantities. 

However, the toxicity is mostly a threat to horses stumbling across wild corydalis lutea.

Pets and children should be safe around the plant, but horses should be kept away.

Suggested Corydalis Lutea Uses

Yellow corydalis grows easily and provides nice ground cover. 

Its spread makes it a great choice for edging borders. 

It also works well in rock gardens, cottage gardens, woodland gardens, and shade gardens.