PRIMULA Rockery Primrose

Primula is a large and complex genus. The flowers nearly always have a Primrose shape and they either droop gracefully or are held erect. There are hardly any general rules about cultivation – humus-rich soil and some shade are nearly always needed but the Primulas vary from easy-to-grow favourites which succeed anywhere to some of the so-called Asian varieties which offer a real challenge. The dividing line between the Rockery Primroses and the ones grown in the herbaceous border is not clear-cut. The Common Primrose, Polyanthus and the Drumstick Primrose are often planted in rock gardens, whereas the Auriculas described below are frequently used as front-of-the-border subjects.

VARIETIES: The fleshy-leaved Auricula (P. auricula) is an old favourite – height 6 in., spread 6 in.

Flowering period: March-April. Clusters of large flowers in a range of colour combinations are borne on the flower stalks. P. juliae has a different growth habit. It is a carpeting plant – height 3 in., spread 1 ft.

Flowering period: March-May. It is best known for its hybrids with their short-stemmed flowers nestling in the leaves – examples are P. ‘Wanda’ (wine-coloured) and P. ‘Victory’ (purple). P. rosea (height 6 in., spread 6 in.) is often recommended for its bright pink flowers which appear in the spring, but it will not thrive unless you can provide very moist soil. P. vialii is an unusual Primula-quite tall (height 1 ft. spread 1 ft), it flowers in June and July and the flower-heads have the appearance of a Red Hot Poker. P. marginata is a small plant (height 4 in., spread 6 in.) which blooms in early April – clusters of sweet-smelling blue or purple flowers above the mealy leaves. ‘Linda Pope’ is the best variety. P. edgeworthii is a very early Primula, blooming in February. Attractive, with yellow-eyed mauve flowers, but difficult to grow in most areas of Britain. The baby of the family is P. minima – height 2 in., spread 5 in.

Flowering period: April-May. The flower stalks bearing large pink blooms arise from the centre of the leaf rosettes.

SITE AND SOIL: Well-drained, moisture-retentive soil in light shade is the usual requirement.

PROPAGATION: Plant cuttings under glass in summer or divide clumps after flowering. (

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