How To Grow Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea) In Your Garden

Corydalis lutea is also known as Yellow Corydalis and Yellow fumitory. It is a perennial plant grown by many gardeners for its long blooming period and vibrant, yellow flowers.

This charming plant is native to the Alpine regions of Europe, but has become naturalized in many parts of North America.

Corydalis lutea
 Corydalis lutea photograph by Babij, CC

The Yellow Corydalis plant typically grows to a height of 1 to 1.5 feet (30 to 45 cm), and has a spread of about 1 foot (30 cm).

It has a blue-green, fern-like foliage. This creates a delicate backdrop for its clusters of small, yellow flowers. These bloom from late spring until the first frost.

Gardeners are drawn to Corydalis plants for their long-lasting color and low maintenance requirements.

It is suitable for USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8 and RHS Zones H5, demonstrating its adaptability to different climates.

It works particularly well in woodland gardens, rock gardens, and in the foreground of borders.

Yellow corydalis
Close up of Yellow corydalis flowers, picture by David Short, CC

How to Grow Corydalis lutea in the Garden

When it comes to growing them in your garden, it is important to consider its location. Yellow Corydalis prefers to grow in partial to full shade. This makes it an excellent choice for areas of the garden that are difficult to populate with the usual sun-loving plants.

Plants are fairly flexible with regards to soil types, but prefer a moist, well-drained soil. Ideally, this should be rich in organic matter.

Corydalis lutea can be propagated by seeds or through division. Divide in spring or early in autumn.

When growing from seeds, it's best to sow out in the fall, as they will require a period of cold stratification in able to germinate. Sow the seeds at a depth of about 1/8 inch (0.3 cm), either in a tray or directly into their garden location.

Once Yellow Corydalis is established, it does not require much maintenance.

As the plant is reasonably drought-tolerant, it does not need frequent watering. That said, additional watering can prove beneficial during prolonged dry spells.

It seldom requires additional fertilization, especially if it is growing in a rich, organic soil.

Yellow Fumitory plants
Yellow Fumitory in Bloom by Leonora (Ellie) Enking

Corydalis lutea is a self-seeding plant, which means it will spread naturally in your garden if left unchecked. While this may be a wanted trait by some, it might also lead to the plant spreading more than you require.

To control its spread, simply remove spent flowers before they have a chance to set and drop seeds.

Quick Yellow Corydalis Growing and Care Guide

Scientific Name: Corydalis lutea

Common Name(s): Yellow Corydalis, Yellow fumitory, Golden Corydalis.

Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones: 5-7. RHS Hardiness Rating: H5 (Hardy – cold winters).

Best Used For / Garden Location: Ideal for rock gardens, walls, and shaded borders due to its delicate, fern-like foliage and yellow flowers. Can also be used in shaded areas created by bigger plants.

Plant Details

Life Cycle / Plant Type: Perennial, herbaceous.

Plant Height: 1-1.5 feet (30-45 cm).

Plant Spread: 1-1.5 feet (30-45 cm).

Blooms: Late spring through fall.

Flower Details: The flowers are small, tubular, and bright yellow.

Leaf Foliage: The leaves are blue-green, finely divided, fern-like.

Fruit: Not notable.

Growing Conditions and Location

Best Light Conditions: Partial to full shade.

Suitable Soil Types: Well-drained, loamy or sandy soil, prefers slightly alkaline pH.

Sowing / planting: Sow seeds directly outdoors in late fall or early spring.

Germination time: Germination typically takes 2-3 weeks.

Propagation: Propagation can be done by seeds or by dividing clumps in spring.

Plant Care: Requires little care but may need regular watering in dry conditions.

Growing in pots and containers: Suitable for pots and containers, especially in shaded patios.

Growing as a House plant: Not typically grown as a houseplant.

Further Information

Miscellaneous: Attracts bees and butterflies. Can self-seed prolifically under ideal conditions.

Pests and diseases: Generally pest-free, but can be affected by slugs and aphids.

Common Cultivars / Varieties: No notable cultivars.

Family: Papaveraceae, the Poppy family.

Native: Southern Alps, Italy.

References and Further Reading: The Yellow Fumitory Weed; Fumewort by Gardenia; Cornell Home Gardening.

Common Questions

Does Corydalis lutea make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Corydalis lutea can be used in a garden or as a landscaping plant. It has attractive fern-like foliage and bright yellow flowers, and is great for bringing charm to shaded areas.

Is Yellow fumitory a fragrant plant?

Corydalis lutea is not notably fragrant. It is mainly grown for its appealing foliage and striking yellow flowers.

What is the perfect location to grow Corydalis lutea?

Corydalis lutea thrives in an area with partial to full shade so long as it has well-draining soil. It's an excellent choice for rock gardens, shaded borders, or for use in underplanting larger shrubs and trees.

Is Corydalis lutea an invasive plant?

While Corydalis lutea can self-seed and spread, it's not considered invasive in the USA. In some cases, it can become slightly weedy in ideal conditions but doesn't pose a threat to native ecosystems. In the UK, it is considered a weed when grown outside of a garden.

How do I remove Yellow Corydalis from my garden?

Yellow Corydalis can be removed by carefully uprooting the plant before they have chance to set seed. Dispose of the plants in a green waste bin, and check the area for any remaining seedlings to prevent further regrowth.


Corydalis lutea, a woodland plant from Europe, thrives in partial to full shade with moist, well-drained soil. Its tolerance to colder climates makes it suitable for cooler regions.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this guide on how to grow Corydalis lutea. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow poppies, Argemone Plant, Meconopsis grandis, and Chelidonium plants in the garden.

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