Drumstick primula – Primula denticulata

Colourful globes in spring. The drumstick primula, with its globe-shaped, colourful flowers, is as much a part of spring as other primulas. Originally from Asia, the cultivated varieties of this popular plant have purple, pink, red or white flowers.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March-April:

Drumstick primula flowers at the same time as other spring flowers.

May:

Leaf rosette develops after flowering.

SUMMER

June-July:

The primula can be propagated by division or by taking root cuttings. Keep moist and do not apply chemical food. Seed is ripe for collection.

AUTUMN

September-November:

Sow seed and cover with soil.

November:

Cover the bed with compost every other year.

WINTER

December-February:

Primula seed needs frost and darkness to germinate. Drumstick primula is completely hardy and does not require protection.

Semi-shade is best

The flowers may fade in full sunlight, so a spot which gets the sun for only part of the day suits the primula perfectly. Alternatively it should thrive in a border which receives dappled sun and shade. But do not go the other extreme and plant the primula in day-long shade. A cool, fresh location is best, and prolongs flowering.

Propagate by division

Drumstick primulas propagate by self-sowing, but it is also possible to divide and replant old plants. Once the primulas have been planted they require no special care, apart from weeding.

If you grow a particularly large specimen, you can propagate it by taking root cuttings. Cut off 3cm-long pieces of the root and plant these vertically in nutrient-rich soil.

It is important that the correct end is upwards. The root cuttings should be covered by 1cm of soil and then watered. Cover the forcing frame or pots with a sheet of glass or plastic foil. Shoots will appear within four to six weeks.

After a few years in the same spot, your drumstick primulas will have created a thick mat of flowers by self-sowing.

IMPORTANT

You can harvest the seeds from primulas yourself. Sow the seeds on the ground, then cover with a thin layer of soil. Exposed to the winter frost, the seeds will germinate the following spring. As with all aspects of its care, growing this fuss-free plant from seed is straightforward and offers every chance of successful results.

BUYING S

If you wish to be sure of vigorous growth, go for the mauve or white plants.

While many of the red-flowered forms have been selected and named, their growth is not always as strong as the more delicate colours.

V he drumstick ,! primula is a great mixer. Available in many different colours, this hardy perennial looks good combined with other spring flowers in a partly shaded spot in the garden.

There are more than 400 different primula varieties, originating from mountainous areas of Europe and Asia. The primulas belong to the family Primulaceae which also includes cyclamens. Primulas consist of herbaceous plants that have rosettes of leaves and bell- or plate-shaped flowers.

The many- primulas can be divided into spring-and summer-flowering varieties. Spring-flowering varieties are further distinguished by their differing flower shapes.

The drumstick primula develops stout flower stalks which grow to between 10 and 40cm. The star-shaped flowers cluster on these stems in globe-shaped flower-heads. The green, oval leaves do not develop until during or soon after flowering. They can grow up to 30cm long and make a pretty rosette around the stalk.

The leaf edges are finely notched, giving this primula its Latin name of denticulata, which means ‘toothed’. The plant propagates by self-seeding and develops several new rosettes around the parent plant after a few years. The primula produces its flowers during April, but its vividly coloured flower-heads will last to brighten up the garden well into May.

Bright colours in the spring border

Thanks to cultivation, many varieties of drumstick primula are available, in shades from white, through pink and red to purple. The white form, ‘Alba’, is one of the most beautiful cultivated forms of the primula. ‘Rosea’ has pink flowers, while ‘Cashmeriana’ has pale purple blooms which grow in profusion. ‘Rubra’ is a bright red variety.

Drumstick primulas look attractive planted with small narcissi. The purple flowers of the primulas also offset daffodils. Corydalis lutea, Hepatica nobilis, Omphalodes vema and smaller ferns all combine effectively with the drumstick primula in a small spring flower-bed.

It also looks good with low-growing botanical tulips, oxlip primulas {Primula elatior), Primula roseum or marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris).

Drumstick primulas also look very pretty planted in front of rhododendrons, which flower after the primulas.

The ideal soil

The drumstick primula prefers soil which is low in lime and rich in humus. It also likes plenty of moisture. Forest soil is ideal. Never use mineral fertilizers, as they can cause damage to the plant

Spread compost over the beds every other year to give the primula sufficient nutrients.

MIXING COLOURS

A mixture of white and purple drumstick primulas looks very pretty, as the two colours complement each other. Drumstick primulas look their best planted in small groups — a single plant on its own looks a little lost. Older plants can create an imposing group with ten or more ‘balls’ of blossom.

Drumstick primula

SITUATION

Semi-shaded, in acid beds with plants such as rhododendron, and next to water, with other mixed spring flowers.

SOIL

Damp and low in lime. Drumstick primula thrives in both sandy and clay soils.

CARE

One of the easiest primulas to care for. Often spreads by self-sowing and can be divided during replanting every two to three years.

PLANT HEALTH

The drumstick primula is a remarkably robust plant and usually you cannot go far wrong with it. If, however, either the leaves or flowers fail to appear, you should try planting the primula in another, more suitable location.

Poor growth usually results from planting the primula in bad soil conditions or the wrong situation. You should also try watering it more frequently.

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