Primroses don’t care if your garden is formal or casual. There are types to suit each style. These lovely plants grow easily here in Skagit County and make a cheerful addition to the early spring garden.
These perennials will return each year so when planting, keep in mind that most primroses prefer light shade rather than direct afternoon sun. A moist, but not soggy, soil with high organic content is best for most primroses.
The most commonly found form of primrose is the English primrose (Primula polyanthus), a hybrid developed for brightly colored, tightly-clustered blossoms and attractive crinkly leaves.
There are many other popular forms of primrose available as well. The primrose you may remember is a child, that needed little attention to survive regularly producing new flowers, as most likely the old fashioned, richly-colored ‘Julian’ or ‘Wanda’ series (Primula juliae). These types are great for flowerbeds or containers.
Another old favorite is the cowslip (Primula veris), often thought of for woodsy areas or naturalized plantings. Borne on 4-8 inch stems, their blossoms are tightly whorled and bright yellow.
There is a double blossom form of primrose (Primula vulgaris) on the market. Color choices are a bit more limited than some other more easily found species, but their beauty is worth looking for.
An unusual member of the primrose family is the auricula (Primula auricula). This alpine and rock garden favorite has greenish-blue leathery leaves that remain evergreen except in extremely cold winters. The blossoms come in many colors, some quite interesting such as plum, maroon, cream, lime green and brown. The special feature that sets these plants apart from their relatives is the strikingly-colored, deep set “eye” in the center of each blossom.
The Fairy primrose (Primula malacoides) is often in bloom during the early spring months, beginning in February. It is an airy, delicate-looking plant with umbels of lacy rose or lilac-toned blossoms in loose whorls that rest on long slender stems.
Primula sinensis and Primula obconicu, the Chinese and German primroses, are often in nurseries about the same time as the Fairy primrose. Both of these primroses have large, soft, hairy leaves and stems, the Chinese one having a toothed edge. Bloom colors include muted tones of salmon, pink, lavender, and white. These are borne in loose clusters. The German primrose blossoms are one-and-one-half to two inches wide, with the Chinese primroses being somewhat smaller. Some people are sensitive to the hairy leaves on these types and may develop a skin rash after contact.
Are you looking for something really different to spice up the garden? Keep an eye out for Litton’s primrose (Primula vialii). This plant’s unusual flowers are borne on a spiked stem, bright red buds that open to violet blue blooms with a slight fragrance! How’s that for different?
Don’t forget that most of these spring beauties prefer a moist, cool environment, so if you are tempted to bring them inside, limit it to only a few days, while you consider their permanent home outdoors.
As you can see, there is a primrose for every situation. Enjoy!