Primroses: Not Just a Grocery Store Flower

We know it's February when the primroses arrive at the grocery stores, big box stores, and nurseries. Their striking colors in 4" pots are welcome after January's gray days. Presenting them as a Valentine or displaying them on a windowsill is a must. But then, May happens, and we find them, the soil dried out and their leaves limp. Into the garbage, until next February when their colorful blooms entice us again.

Good News: Your windowsill doesn't have to be their demise. Primroses are hardy in zones 3-8. They thrive on cold winters and bloom before the daffodils pop up. Read on for easy instructions and varieties to grow. 
For fun: The Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, Alaska has the largest documented collection of primula in North America. They were recently granted National Collections status for the genus Primula by the Plant Collections Network (formerly North American Plant Collections Consortium, NAPCC).  Click here to see their beautiful primrose pictures. Follow on Facebook here
Primroses do well as a woodland garden plant. Their bloom time is early spring through late spring and they are suited to boggy conditions. Use them as groundcovers and early season bloom.

Primroses do well as a woodland garden plant. Their bloom time is early spring through late spring and they are suited to boggy conditions. Use them as groundcovers and early season bloom.

A Primrose Primer 🌼

We'll skip the primer on the difference between a primula, primrose, and polyanthus and get straight on to growing these bright lovelies. If you're up for sorting out the differences between them, click here for details.

Primrose japonica, Japanese primrose, or Candelabra primrose tolerates wet feet. Combine with cinnamon or ostrich fern for spring display.

Features to Note:

  •  Cut Flowers
  • Rock Garden
  • Woodland Garden
  •  Deer Resistant
  •  Fragrant
  •  Blooms 4 Weeks +
  •  Container flower
  •  Shade Tolerant
  • Bog plant (Candelabra primrose) 
  • Blooms late winter/early spring

Cultural Conditions:

  • Zone 3-8
  • Prefers morning sun, afternoon shade. Filtered light is best. In zones 7-8 more shade is necessary. They do not like heat.
  • Primroses are woodland garden plants, use them as a groundcovers.
  • Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Some species (Candelabra primrose) perform well in boggy and clay soils.
  • Divide every 3 years.
  • Plant crown at soil height, six inches apart. 
  • Forested leaf-littered environment preferred. 

Plant With: 

Primrose 'Pacific Hybrids' similar to your garden store variety of polyanthus (a mix between Primrose vulgaris and Primrose veris), these large, showy blooms can be seen as early as February. 

  • Bleeding Hearts                                          
  • Daffodils
  • Epimedium
  • Ferns
  • Foam Flower
  • Lungwort
  • Tulips
  • Siberian iris 
  • Snowdrops
  • Shooting Star
  • Trillium
  • Tulips
  • Virginia Bluebells
  • Woodland Phlox

Belarina® Primrose vulgaris, Belarina® series. This new series is a double bloom, fragrant primrose that performs well year-to-year in the garden. Click on each picture for a better view. We sell out fast. Get them now!

  1. Amethyst Ice—white edges on violet flowers; early spring
  2. Nectarine—peach and yellow; late spring
  3. Cream—fragrant; early to midspring
  4. Pink Ice—white flowers with a pink blush deepening to lilac; midspring
  5. Valentine—intense red; late spring
  6. Yellow Ruffle—Deep yellow; late spring
  7. Buttercup—yellow blooms, fragrant; early spring
  8. Cobalt Blue—early spring

Photos of Belarina series courtsey of Walter's Gardens

Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach, blog writer

B.B. Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.