How to Grow Primrose Flower

The primrose flower is a member of the primula family. Happiest growing in shady locations and on the edge of beds, or as part of a forest planting scheme, primrose flowers come in a spectrum of attractive colors. The primrose flower sits on short stems above rich, green foliage.

A popular way to add color to gardens in the early spring, primulas are vigorous growing plants that will reliably return year after year. Many garden varieties are Polyanthus hybrids.

The primrose flower is a long lasting garden bloom. It will brighten up your border, container garden or basket often until summer reaches its warmest point. These frost hardy plants may also repeat flower in the fall, depending on local growing conditions.

1 Coming in a range of colors and patterns
Coming in a range of colors and patterns, the blooms of the primula family are a popular choice for spring and fall gardens. The plants will happily grow in containers, baskets and beds and work particularly well as green edging.

Varieties of Primrose Flower

There are over 400 different recorded types of perennial primrose flower in existence. The majority are low growing herbaceous perennials that tend to flower during the spring. However some will flower during the winter months. The most common primrose plants have purple flowers, but there are also primrose plants with red, pink, white, orange flowers and more.

Don’t confuse the primrose flower with alpine and bog primulas. These varieties are more demanding than regular primroses. Japanese primroses prefer wet soil.

Primrose Primula vulgaris is the most commonly found member of the family. The yellow flowers of this common primrose are often seen in the wild, growing under hedgerows or on shady banks.

2 Many primula varieties grow wild
Many primula varieties grow wild and are a common, if often unnoticed, sight. If left untended they will slowly spread through a lawn or patch of earth. 

The distinctive variety Hose in hose has two flowers, one set inside the other. Popular in Eastern Europe they take their name from Tudor men who would wear two pairs of hose under the doublets during the winter months. Primlet is a large flowering, modern variant which produces rosebud-esque flowers.

Double flowers, such as Quakers Bonnet or the bright Sunshine Suzie are particularly attractive. As is the deep blue Miss Indigo.

Gold-lace primula flowers, their chocolate petals framed by a gold band, are also popular. The Bride produces attractive scalloped, oval leaves. During the warmest months of the year these plants become dormant.

3 Brightly colored polyanthus varieties are particularly popularr
Brightly colored Polyanthus varieties are particularly popular. The range of colors and patterns available will allow you to fill early season beds with splashes of bright, eye-catching color. 

Polyanthus varieties are particularly colorful coming in a rainbow of colors. For example Lady Greer is a delicate pale cream flower. While Red Tomato produces richly, red flowers. This variety is excellent for growing in containers or beds.

How to Grow the Primrose Flower

The primrose flower is a pleasingly hardy plant. Preferring moisture and rich well drained soil enriched with organic matter, they are happy to grow in a range of locations, from full sun positions to woodland gardens with light shade. In particularly hot climates, they may appreciate a little shade. These plants are hardy in USDA zones 4-8.

Sowing Primrose Flower Seeds

Seeds can be sown all year round. During the winter months they are best sown undercover.

Fill trays or small pots with a seed-starting mix. Moisten the soil with a gentle spray.

Sow the seeds sparsely and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite.

4 Sow the seeds as thinly as possible
Sow the seeds as thinly as possible. If they later germinate in small clumps, pick out the weakest seedlings, allowing stronger specimens to thrive. 

Place the trays or pots in a light, sheltered location. If you aren’t expecting a harsh winter the pots can be left outside. Place them in a north facing location, with some protection from the harshest rain and winds.

Seeds sown during the winter will germinate during March or April. How long germination takes will depend on when the seeds were sown and their variety.

Seedling Care

Following germination water the seedlings regularly. Don’t allow them to dry out.

The best way to water is to place the tray or container in a shallow tray of water. When the soil becomes damp, remove the pots from the tray and allow the soil to drain.

5 As the seedlings continue to grow they will require transplanting into larger containers
As the seedlings continue to grow they will require transplanting into larger containers. When the plants reach a decent size they can be transplanted into their final location.

When the seedlings produce a couple of true leaves they can be transplanted into larger pots filled with fresh potting soil. If the seedlings are clumped together, remove a clump and gently tease their roots apart. Plant the strongest seedlings on, discard weak specimens that are likely to fail.

When the plants reach 8-10 cm in height they can be transplanted outside.

How to Plant out a Primrose Flower

Primrose flower plants can be grown in beds, containers, or baskets.

The primrose flower thrives best in humus rich well drained soil. Select a cool site that has some shade during the warmest months of the year. Water loving varieties can be grown near ponds, streams or artificial water sources.

The soil should also be well drained. Working homemade compost and leaf mould into your soil before planting will help to enrich it.

6 Primrose flowers thrive best in rich soil in a shady well draining site
The Primrose flower thrives best in rich well drained soil in a shady location. These conditions are easy to replicate, allowing you to enjoy the plants’ colorful blooms. Blooming occurs throughout the summer, and the plants are hardy in planting zones 4-8.

You can plant out the primrose flower from mid September until early October for fall bedding. They can also be planted out early in the spring.

The primrose flower generally copes well with being transplanted, however nursery grown plants may struggle initially. This is because nursery grown plants are often raised undercover in peat rich compost. Consequently they tend to struggle during their first year when transplanted into a garden. Keep the plants well watered and they will slowly acclimatize.

You can also keep nursery reared plants in their containers until flowering has finished. Then divide them into small sections, that are planted in a gritty compost. As you repot check the roots for signs of disease or infestation such as vine weevil.

How to Transplant

If you are planting into a container, fill your chosen container roughly three-quarters full with fresh, multipurpose compost.

Make a hole in the soil large enough to comfortably hold the plant. When placed in the hole the crown of the plant should sit at roughly soil level.

7 Primulas will happily grow in well draining containers
Primulas will happily grow in well draining containers. Growing in containers enables you to better protect the plants during harsh winter weather. 

Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole. Fill in the hole with soil and gently firm it down. Water in well. Mulch around the base of the plant with compost and leaf mould. This will help the plants to retain moisture.

Space 6-12 inches apart, depending on the variety.

How to Care for a Primrose Flower

Once planted the primrose flower is a refreshingly easy plant to care for. Plants will usually flower during the spring. However this may be delayed after a harsh winter. If your winter has been mild, don’t be surprised to see early blooms on your primrose flower plants.

Watering and Feeding

Water weekly throughout the spring and summer months. During dry spells you will need to water more frequently. As the fall temperatures decline, water less frequently.

Apply organic fertilizer, or homemade liquid plant feed, lightly during the growing season. Some primrose plants can grow as tall as 6 feet.


Regularly prune away dead leaves and spent flowers. This will help to discourage disease as well as keeping the plants looking healthy.


Mulch heavily in the spring and fall with organic or homemade compost and leafmould. This helps to prevent the soil, and roots, from drying out.

Winter Protection

Mulch primrose flower plants in the fall. Cover the plants with cloches, hay or evergreen boughs just before the ground freezes. This will protect the plants, helping to prevent frost heave. Move plants growing in containers to a sheltered position.

8 These plants are not a labor intensive addition to the garden
These plants are not a labor intensive addition to the garden. Regular watering, feeding and pruning will help the plants to flourish. Your efforts will be rewarded with lots of colorful blooms. 

Collecting Seeds

Collecting seeds is best done in late summer or early fall. Allow the spent flowers to remain on the plants. These will eventually give way to seed pods. Cut these away from the plants and store them in a paper envelope in a cool, dry place until you are ready to sow.

Plant Division

Plants should be divided every two or three years. If they are not divided their stems may open or become brittle. This can make the plants attractive to the harmful vine weevil.

Divide the plants in late spring, after flowering. They can also be divided in late winter after seeds have been harvested and sown.

To divide the plants, carefully lift them from their position. Gently prize the clump apart. The central part will be old and non-productive. This should be discarded.

Cut the roots back, they should be around 10 cm in length. This will encourage fine roots, that harvest nutrients from the soil, to emerge.

Re-plant the clumps in enriched soil and water in well.

Primrose Flower Companion Plants

These plants will happily grow alongside many other flowers. They do particularly well when planted alongside candytuft, violas, calendulas, and pansies. When planted alongside other flowers you can create a colorful, long lasting flower bed.

9 Primulas are a popular companion plant
The primrose flower is a popular companion plant. They will happily form part of a colorful flower bed that will re-flower year after year. 

Common Primrose Flower Problems

The primrose flower is not prone to disease.

Slugs and snails will target these plants. They can be deterred by placing deterrents around the plants. Organic controls such as used coffee grounds can be just as effective as chemical controls.

Regularly check the leaves for signs of aphid and spider mite infestations. If spotted early these can quickly be washed away with a blast from a hose pipe or a soapy water spray.

10 Primulas are pleasantly resistant to most pests and diseases
The primrose flower is pleasantly resistant to most pests and diseases. If cared for correctly they are unlikely to attract any harmful conditions. 

Very rarely cucumber mosaic virus may strike. This disease is carried by aphids and causes leaves to develop a mottled or mosaic yellow pattern. It can also stunt growth. Affected plants should be lifted and discarded.

Leaves may yellow or brown if not watered regularly. Place your finger into the soil, if the top inch is dry the plants need to be watered.

Promptly remove foliage that develops spots. Yellow spots that turn darker in color may be a sign of Primula Rust. While unpleasant to look at this is not an invasive disease.

Primulas can develop crown rot or root rot if planted in poorly draining soil. This can be cured by replant in a lighter soil mix, or amending the soil with compost.

With the correct care and attention most fungal infections will be avoided.

11 Bright and colorful the easy going nature of this plant
Bright and colorful, the easy going nature of this plant has helped to make it a firm favorite in the garden. Fitting into a range of planting schemes and environments, it is hard not to fall for the charms of the primula. 

The primula is a colorful, easy to cultivate addition to any garden. Happy to grow in beds or containers, their flowers are a great way to naturally edge a path or bed. By following the steps laid out in this guide you too will soon be enjoying the delights of the primrose flower.

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