Primrose – Primula vulgaris (syn. P. acaulis)

Spring flowers for border or patio pot. An adaptable plant with cheery flowers in March and April, the primrose does well in almost all positions. It is fully hardy and puts on its display year after year with very little effort on the part of the gardener.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March-April:

Flowering season. After flowering divide large clumps and replant in soil dug with well-rotted manure, leaf-mould or coconut fibre and enriched with about one teaspoonful of general fertilizer per plant.

SUMMER

June-September:

Keep the soil moist in dry spells. Sow primrose seeds in compost in June or

July and keep in a cold frame until seedlings are large enough to go outdoors. Remove faded flower stems to prevent self-seeding.

AUTUMN

September-April:

Plant seedlings out into their permanent positions at anytime from autumn to spring. In a border, plant them about 20-25cm apart.

Planting in irregular groups gives an informal effect.

WINTER

December-February:

Primrose is fully hardy so no special care is necessary.

For good growth, incorporate a slow-release fertilizer, or apply a liquid feed. Plant in the permanent site between autumn and spring.

An alternative, simpler method of propagating primrose is to divide large clumps after flowering. Simply fork up a clump and pull it gently apart. Tidy up dead or damaged roots and leaves, and plant divisions directly in the new position. Water well. —

WILD OR TAMED

Primrose is a superb plant for the wild garden, in a site that is close to its natural habitat. It does especially well in the banks of established hedgerows and in a shaded or sun-dappled position. Alternatively, plant it among later-flowering herbaceous plants, to come into bloom before they start growing. The herbaceous plants then shade the primrose in the summer.

A native of Britain, the primrose is a familiar sight on banks and in woods in the wild. It brings a welcome breath of spring colour to a moist shady border.

Primrose comes from a large, mixed group of over 400 species of perennials. The group Primula takes its name from the Latin Pnmuia veris (the species name for the cowslip) meaning ‘first little one of spring’. The name of the primrose originates from the Latin prima rosa meaning ‘earliest rose’ and relating to the early flowering of many of the primulas.

Primula vulgaris, also known as Primula acaulis, is a neat, dwarf species that grows to about 15cm high and forms clumps. Its five-petalled, scented flowers are usually single and are about 2-3cm across. When they open they are flat. The flowers are pale yellow and have darker centres. The leaves form rosettes around the base of the plant and are bright green, long and oval shaped, slightly crinkly and toothed.

Propagation

Grow primrose from seed sown in early to midsummer in trays of seed compost. Soak the filled seed-tray in water first. Sow seed on the surface, taking care not to cover it with compost. Put the ti’ays in a cold frame (protective outdoor box) and keep them covered with glass or polythene until germination.

Keep seedlings moist and shaded. Germination can be poor if the temperature rises above 20°C.

When large enough, move the seedlings outside to boxes or pots containing a suitable potting compost.

IMPORTANT

Keep the soil around primrose damp all the time or it will soon suffer. The best way to keep it watered during a dry spell is to spray it from above using the broadest spray setting on a hose nozzle or a watering can with a rose attachment.

Make sure the soil around the roots is well soaked.

Primrose

SITUATION

A semi-shaded cool site in a border, under trees or in tubs mixed with spring bulbs. Avoid cold winds. Grows well in groups. Position it where its cheerful flowers can easily be seen.

SOIL

Most moisture-retaining soils. Ideally a medium-fertile soil that does not dry out in spring or summer. Plenty of organic matter helps the soil hold moisture. In very acid soil, add lime.

CARE

Mulching helps retain moisture in the soil. Water regularly in warm weather. Divide every 2-4 years. Divide and replant after flowering, water and keep moist.

PLANT HEALTH

While the primrose is not badly affected by pests and diseases, it can fall prey to aphids, especially the root aphid, and to slugs. Deter slugs with a layer of grit or sharp sand laid around the plant or worked into the soil at planting. The primrose is also prone to types of root rot, and rust which shows itself as raised lumps that change from orange to brown to dark brown beneath the leaves. Suitable growing conditions are the best preventive measure.

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