Chinese Primrose – Primula sinensis

The simple but delightful flowers of the Chinese Primrose are carried in whorls above the leaves. The plant flowers from December until March.

The heart-shaped hairy leaves have 7-9 lobes and are mid-green. Flowers are usually shades of red, white or blue. The most common seed strain available is Primula sinensis ‘Stellata’, which comes in mixed colours.

Water the plant carefully, as it is prone to crown rot. Mist spray seedlings and water young and older plants from the bottom to protect against fungus.

The Chinese Primrose is displayed to best advantage in simple wicker baskets. Although rather short-lived, this attractive winter bloomer makes an excellent indoor or greenhouse plant.Chinese Primrose - Primula sinensis

The plant grows to a height of 25cm (10in). Flowers are about 25mm (1in) in diameter.

Display ideas

Chinese Primroses look most attractive when their pots are placed inside a basket, a simple glazed container or in a ceramic pot of similar colour to the plant’s flowers.

Growing from seed

Chinese Primroses can be difficult to raise from seed indoors and are best grown from seed in a greenhouse. Sow in February or March.

1 Sow seeds in a tray of seed compost and sprinkle a thin layer of compost over the top. Cover with glass.

2 Place the tray in a shady position and keep just moist. The temperature should be 16°C (61°F). Remember to remove the glass for about 5 minutes each day to prevent dampening off.

3 When seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into another tray. Pot on individually in 8cm (3in) pots containing soil-based compost.

Plant Problems

The neck of the plant turns black and the whole plant collapses if it has crown rot.

Prevention: Never over-water and water only into the saucer under the plant. The crown of the plant must not get wet.

Grey, velvety patches on the leaves are grey mould, caused by a combination of high humidity and low temperatures.

Treatment: Move the plant to a warmer, less humid position and spray with a fungicide.

Drooping leaves and flowers occur when the compost is too dry. Treatment: Put the pot in a saucer of water and allow the compost to take up water until it is moist.

Yellowing leaves are a sign of an iron deficiency, caused by too much calcium in the compost. Treatment: Apply chelated iron, available from garden centres and nurseries.


This plant is easy to care for and should not present any problems as long as it is well watered.

  • The flower stems are fragile and should be handled with care.
  • Remove withered flowers and leaves.
  • Potting: use a soil-based potting compost. Pot on plants raised from seed into 8cm (3in) pots.
  • Water generously and mist spray occasionally. The plant is best watered from the bottom. Never allow the compost to dry out, or the whole plant will quickly wither.
  • Feeding: Feed every 2 weeks with a standard liquid fertilizer.


  • Light: The plant needs good light and will thrive in an east- or west-facing window.
  • Temperature: Keep at 10°-13°C (50°-55°F) in winter. Plants raised from seed should be kept at 18°-21°C (65°-70°F) during the summer.

When to buy

  • Chinese Primrose is available in winter when it is in flower, but can also be grown from seed. It can be bought at florists, garden centres and nurseries.
  • Choose a plant with lots of flower buds and healthy green foliage. Check the stems — they are fragile and break easily.
  • Chinese Primrose is a short-term plant that is discarded after flowering.

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