A Look At Primroses Through The Seasons

We live near Philadelphia, and people still ask me whether primroses are hardy here. The answer is that they are, and for that matter, they are even harder in much colder climates.

primroses on seasonsPin

Primroses Bloom in Summer

Some primroses will bloom in succession from April through the Summer; there are kinds for wet places, woodlands, and the rock garden.

To get some idea of the number of hardy primroses that can be grown one has only to look into Reginald John Fames’s book, 

The English Rock Garden, where many years ago he devoted 94 pages to descriptions of the species. Since then ever so many more have been introduced into cultivation. 

Here we have made a start with some 30 species, not all of which have bloomed as yet, but all are sturdy plants that look very happy at this writing in November.

Division into Groups

Hardy primulas have been divided into about 20 sections, and, as cultural conditions are very nearly the same for all the members of a section, it is well to know to which section your primrose belongs. 

So far I have representatives of nine sections here and will discuss them in the approximate order of their bloom.

Denticulata Section

Primula Denticulata is the only member of the DENTICULATA section that is commonly grown. It is most accommodating and will grow in any place that is not too dry — near water in open woodland or in a semi-shady corner in the rock garden. 

The flowers grow in round balls, in shades of lavender and white, on top of the sturdy stems before the leaves grow in the Spring. 

The leaves gradually develop into a great head of “romaine” salad. A variety of primula denticulata cachemiriana, is somewhat daintier. 

I have seedlings that are supposed to be red and believe they will be, as they are now showing large reddish buds at ground level.

Moisture-Loving Group

Farinosa Section

The FARINOSA section is a large one. Those I have include primula chrysopa, “darialica,” farinosa, frondosa, involuerata, luteola, rosea, yargongensis.

All the Farinosa Group

All the farinosa group like moisture, though primula frondosa, luteola, and chrysopa do not want it too wet, especially in the Winter. 

Primula Rosea

Primula Rosea is the first to bloom, though it fights it out with Primula denliculata. 

Rich, pink flowers appear before the leaves, which are firm, glossy, and only two or three inches long. They demand a moist position in the sun or semi-shade.

Primula Farinosa

Primula Farinosa is a very dainty little plant, with loose heads of small pink to lavender yellow-eyed flowers on short stems. The crimped, firm, short leaves are silvery on the underside. 

Primula Chrysopa

Primula Chrysopa is much like primula farinosa but has longer silvered stems and much smaller leaves. 

Most of the primroses, even if deciduous, leave a bud at ground level which is visible during the Winter, but primula chrysopa disappears so completely that you get the feeling it is lost forever? 

Primula Luteola

Primula Luteola hasn’t bloomed for me as yet, but I am looking forward to seeing its soft yellow flowers in June after the early kinds are past.

primula graphics auricula, vulgaris, elatior, veris, juliae, polyanthaPin
Left to right: Primula auricula, P. vulgaris, P. elatior, P. veris, P. juliae, P. polyantha

Auricula Seedlings Are Slow

The BULLATA section is a small one. 

The difficult primula forresti is the only one I have started. Two seedlings are growing under overhanging rocks in a sunny wall — a position they seem to need. 

The very early, orange-yellow, sweet-scented blooms are worth the care the plants require.

Auricula Section

Of the AURICULA section I can only say from experience that the seedlings grow very slowly, but those that have bloomed were entrancing, with their decorative firm foliage and their story-book flowers. 

Rich soil, sun, or semi-shade seems to meet their needs. 

Primula Marginata, Primula Glaucescens Calycina, and Primula Clusiana are some of the many in this section I am just getting started. 

  • Primula Marginata wants full sun and rock to hang over; its flowers are a lovely lavender-blue. 
  • Primula Clusiana is carmine with a white eye. 
  • Primula Glaucescens Calycina has fine rose-pink blooms.

Vernales Section

The section VERNALES includes the primroses that everyone knows and many grow — the English primrose, with all its hybrids, the polyanthus, and the juliae, with
its many varieties and hybrids. 

Here every color of the rainbow is represented, and plants vary from creepers, like many of the juliae, to the tall polyanthus. They bloom from the end of April through May, as a rule. 

They all like semi-shade and rich woodland soil, but will thrive in any spot. in the garden that does not burn them in the Summer. 

The foliage is apt to wilt if exposed to the hot sun, though a good watering will usually revive it.

A Group for Woodlands

Cortusiudes Section

The CORTUSOIDES section is a woodland group, with soft low foliage and delicate flowers on good stems appearing in May and June. 

They vary mostly from pinks to lavenders and magenta. Primula Cortimoitles, suxatilis and Sieboldi are the best known.

Candelabra Section

The CANDELABRA section follows the vernales group, and here among others, we find primula auranliaca, bulleyana, japonica, puircrulenta, and their many hybrids. 

The flowers grow in tiers, mostly on tall stems, in shades of yellow and orange or white, or pink and red. They all want semi-simile and a reasonable amount of moisture.

Mine are happy in open woodland, along a rivulet where there is more sun or tucked cozily into a semi-shady corner of the rock garden.

primula graphics, P japonica, denticulata cachemiriana, pulverulenta, florindae, bulleyana, beesianaPin
Left to right: Primula japonica, P. denticulata cachemiriana, P. pulverulenta, P. florindae, P. bulleyana, P. beesiana

Primulas of Other Hues

  • Primula Japonica comes in reds and pinks and the lovely Postford White. 
  • Primula Pulverulenta has silvered stems, but is otherwise much like Primula japonica: Primula Pulverulenta, bartley strain, is a luscious pink. 
  • Primula Helodoxa is called “Glory-of-the-bog,” and I am waiting to see its orange flowers along the rill. 
  • Primula Bulleyana is a tall rich yellow, and 
  • Primula Aurantiaca is a dwarfer, coppery primrose.

Sikkimensis Section

The bell-flowered section SIKKIMENSIS follows the candelabras closely. Here we have primula alpicola, “hopeana,” secundeflora, sinopurpurea and, of course sikkimensis — all yet to bloom for me, but looking sturdy we can he. 

These all like rich woodland soil or damp open positions. Most have large leaves and hanging hells at the top of tall stems alipicola conies in white, yellow, and purple. 

Primula Vecundolora

Primula vecundolora should be a lovely wine color, as is Primula Waltoni. 

The latter is difficult to move in the seedling stage, but this year, with the utmost care, they survived and are now growing very happily.

Capital Section

The CAPITAL section contains only one species, Primula capilata, which is a biennial or a short-lived perennial. 

A variety of primula capitala mooreana, is hardier: It has purple flowers, and blooms from July to September. My plants look as if they will.

This listing touches only the fringe of the primroses, but it will give a sonic idea of the wealth of color anal bloom and the long growing season of the primula family. 

It can give but little hint of the delight one gets as color, fragrance arid form unfold week after week in this superb group of perennial plants.

44659 by Doretta Klaber