A Fountain of Spring Flowers: Scotch Broom

Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) is a medium sized arching shrub with long fine stems and tiny, almost unnoticeable leaves. It is a bright medium green both summer and winter and looks very much like a grass as it flows out of the shrub border. It is nothing like a grass when it blooms, however. Half inch pea like flowers totally cover the stems in colors ranging from bright yellow to deep burgundy. Flowers persist for about a month and as they age they change colors, giving a slowly shifting display over time.

Scotch Broom is native to the British Isles and temperate Europe. It was reportedly worn as an emblem by Geoffrey of Anjou, the founder of the Plantagenet line of kings in England. The name Plantagenet itself it derived from a medieval name for the plant. It was introduced to Virginia in the early 1800’s and to California around 1850. It was used there extensively to stabilize banks and roadsides where unfortunately it became the kudzu of the West Coast. Here in the South it has much better manners. The yellow flowered types are the most likely to reseed themselves, but are easily controlled. While individual plants are not long lived, stands of Scotch broom have cheerfully persisted at old farmsteads for a hundred years. Cultivated varieties seldom reseed themselves.

Scotch Broom is easy to grow and care free once established. It likes full sun to light shade and enjoys poor sandy soils. (Perfect for you folks in Rolesville) If you have heavy clay soil use soil amendments such as Daddy Pete’s Soil Enhancer and plant broom in a mound. It will grow in heavy shade but will only bloom sporadically. It is very drought tolerant once established. Do plant it where you mean it to be as it hates to be moved.

Scotch broom is at home in the flower garden or the shrub border. In partly shaded areas where ornamental grasses perform poorly it makes an excellent substitute. Cultivated varieties are readily available.

Burkwoodii has garnet red flowers and is more upright than other cultivars. It grows to 5-6 feet with equal or greater spread.

Lena has red and yellow petals and grows only 3′ to 4′ tall and wide.

Moonlight has creamy-white or primrose flowers. It is also upright and reaches 5’ to 6’ tall.