How to grow Primulas

How to grow Primula

Primula polyanthus

 Primula are an easy to grow group of perennial plants which come in many different colours and shapes. Many people thinking of Primula will  bring to mind the popular Polyanthus types illustrated left, but in fact there are many different types, shapes, sizes and colours of Primula and they are great garden plants.

Within the genus are the Polyanthus group (image left) is the most common, frequently sold on line and in garden centers as winter and spring bedding. It is easy to think of these plants just as bedding, but there are some lovely perennial Primula which make great spring colour and early summer colour.

  In the first image, top left, is the Primrose group which includes Primular vulgaris, the lovely common primrose which is early flowering. In the image right is one of the Candelabra varieties, P. beesiana which is a taller later flowering Primula.  Center image, and top right P. denticulata which as it's name suggests looks like a 'drumstick' and is a very popular Primula to mix with spring bulbs.

P. candelabra are deciduous which means they die back in the winter, but they do return reliably each year for a great spring display and often flower into early summer. The polyanthus and primrose groups tend to be ever green, or semi evergreen.  

  Primula vulgaris, common name primrose looks lovely naturalising on a bank and will multiple over time. Some varieties of Primula vulgaris are scented and shade tolerant. Whilst many Primulas are low growing the popular Candelabra beesiana will grow up to 60cms and the variety 'Harlow Carr' image  below left has mixed tones of oranges and pinks  

Where to plant Primula


  Primula like to grow in moist soil, and many of the Candelabra varieties are popular to grow by streams and in bog gardens and are also tolerate shade.  Illustrated here growing alongside a brook is one of my favourite Primulas,  P. Candelabra 'Harlow-Carr' hybrids in lovely shades of orange, mauve, red mixing in with ferns and growing in the RHS Harlow Carr garden. 

  Primulas are bright and cheerful and just ideal for a spring border. It is easy to grow Primulas, simply plant in dappled shade in soil  which tends to be damp and not prone to drying out.  If you have a wet area of semi-shade the Candelabra group are just ideal. 

As a woodland plant, a position in semi shade, with a mulch of organic matter or leaf mould would be just idea.  These are Primula ideal conditions;  Primula are tough plants and will do well in most spots as long as not too dry and baking sun. Sometimes the leaves on Primula can get a bit discoloured, brown at the edges and removing these will do no harm, (provided it is only a few not too many as the plant needs leaves for photosynthesis,) and also dead heading will help to keep the plant flowering. 

The simple cowslip, Primular veris image bottom left, looks lovely in a natural setting and will colonise a bank forming clumps. It is a more a delicate, simple version of the more blousy cousins in the Primula family. Primula self seed near to the mother plant, and it is easy to dig up the little seedling grow on or discard depending on requirements.

Primula look good planted on mass together, with spring flowering bulbs and also the later flowering varieties such as Candelabra are idea with Geraniums and Geum as shown in the image below right.

More ideas on spring flowers and also spring flowering combinations.


Primula veris the common cowslip
Primula with Geranium and Red Geum