Archive | Primulas

Primulas including Auricula, primroses and polyanthus

Primula as Waterside Plants

If I was starting a collection of plants for a bog garden or streamside I would look at a collection of different primula.

Primula Species for Water Gardens

  • Primula viallii like rich moist soil and produce a scarlet opening to purple spike or pyramid of flower in late spring.
  • Primula sieboldii like a damp sheltered position.
  • Primula florindae flowers yellow and lasts for several weeks in summer. A must have plant for this location
  • Primula Japonica a compact plant for early summer flowering. Try Postfords White or Apple Blossom.
  • Primula pulverulenta, aka the candelabra primula. They flower on a leafless stem at varying points like a candelabra. They  can grow 3 feet tall.


Primrose Pathway

2018 has been a very good year for Primroses and Primula. The cool, wet spring and occasional bursts of sunshine have played their part.

Reason for Popularity

    • Over many years there have been incremental improvements in breeding and cross pollination of varieties.
    • Gardeners have a wider choice of colour, form and more reliable vigor.
    • Retail has hit the mass market with most supermarkets and many other stores having a primula offering.
    • Cost has been reasonable and it is easy to maintain plants from year to year.

The Primulaceae Family

  1. Primrose is the common name for Primula vulgaris
  2. Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii is the base for coloured primroses mainly in reds and pinks
  3. Cowslip is the common name for Primula veris
  4. Polyanthus, are a cross between  P. vulgaris x P. veris creating multi-coloured strains of longer stemmed flower heads.


Auricula Knowhow & Books

It has been a good spring for auriculas in my garden and cold greenhouse. Now the plants need time to rejuvenate after flowering so I will have time to read the National Auricula and Primula and Society’s excellent new members handbook and some of the following epistles.





The powder blue auricula is in a home made ‘tufa’ pot

Auricula Book Examples

Book Cover

The Auricula: History, Cultivation and Varieties Allan Guest

Every now and then I decide to focus on one species or plant group. For 2014/2015 it is going to be the Auriculas. I need to practice the techniques explained in various books and learn’ what is what’ with florists Auricula. With that in mind I have joined the National Auricula and Primrose Society northern section and so far it seems very good value for money.

On to the books I am looking out for:

Auriculas – Their Care and Cultivation B.Hyatt Cassell, London.
Auriculas Through the Ages: Bear’s… by Patricia Cleveland-Peck
Auriculas for Everyone: How to Grow and Show Perfect Plants by Mary A. Robinson
Auriculas and Primroses by W.R. Hecker (22 Apr 1971)

Book Cover
Primroses and Auriculas Wisley Handbook by Peter Ward
The Auricula: History, Cultivation and Varieties by Allan Guest
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Growing Excellent Auriculas

This spring has been a good one for my Auriculas. I have been please with a powder blue flower that I hope to propagate by division in July. First I will water well and add some dilute feed.


These Alpine Auriculas look excellent  when grown in 3 inch pots. The ‘Long Tom’ pots are silghtly taller than the traditional pot and are useful as Auricula tend to grow a ‘carrot root’ used to anchor the plant in the wild. Alpine Auriculas have either a golden yellow or cream centre surrounding the tube.

Show Auriculas are considered to be the star Auricula plants and must have a ring of dense Farina around the eye of the flower. Selfs (all one colour) and Edges including most stripes have an outside edge composed of leaf tissue such as the ‘Orlando’ a grey edged show Auricula. Green edges usually have larger flowers. Stripes have recently been reintroduced with Monmouth Star having red petals with yellow rays out to the flowers edge.

Double Auricula ‘Sibsey‘  is a blue to purple flower and can be found at Specialist grower Angus Auriculas. Doubles arise from mutations of border or garden Auriculas and were amongst the first novelties cultivated and shown. There is now an increasing number of doubles including striped doubles at NAPS shows.  The Fantasia variety is deep maroon with white frosting a real eye-catcher


Border or Garden Auriculas have old names like Dusty Miller, Recklasses and Ricklers. Only a few  have ‘Farina’ the white powder found on leaves and flowers that resembles flour or meal which is a must on Show Auriculas.  Some are European primula hybrids and occasional are scented. Best grown in a position that gives them shade from midday sun. Water in very dry spells but plant in well drained soil. Ideal for partially shaded positions on rockeries or borders, or spring flower beds, pots, tubs

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Primula – Alpines and Pot Plants

Primula is a genus with over 500 species and numerous hybrids, divided into 30+ sections.

Primula seiboldii blue japan

Primulas all have flowers with 5 rounded petals like our own primrose Primula vulgaris. The cowslips, Primula elatior, flowers in simple umbels and the candelabras in rising tiers of umbels.

Primula 'E L Bolton'

European Primulas

  • These plant s are hardy and most will succeed in any well drained gritty soil with plenty of humus.
  • All are spring flowering except Primula auricula, marginata, rubra and viscosa.
  • Although most like an open sunny position care must be taken to avoid drying out in too much sunshine.
  • With only a few exceptions the Primulas tolerate or even welcome lime.
  • Some varieties die back to a resting bud during summer.

Primula allianii Joan Hughes Continue Reading →


Primula, Primroses and Polyanthus

‘Kinlough Beauty’ is an exceptionally hardy Primrose from the Primula family. . To maintain vigour divide ‘Kinlough Beauty’ every couple of years or so after blooming. This is when your free plants arise. I have just got nine new healthy plants from one clump. Other primroses can be divided in a similar manner.


Gardeners Tips

To divide a primrose separate new crowns with some roots from the old root. Pull apart or prise loose with two forks back to back.

Alternatively take divisions with a trowel whilst plants are still in the ground for more reliable performance.

Do not split into too many divisions as they take longer to establish.

Plant firmly in soil and keep moist as new roots are established.

Kinlough Beauty is a hardy evergreen or semi-evergreen Juliana cultivar with deep green, oval leaves 6 inches long. Plants produce loose clusters of wine red to rose-pink yellow eyed flowers held above a mound of foliage.


Plant labeling of primrose family can be a bit hit and miss. Continue Reading →


Primary Coloured Spring Bulbs & Primula Bed

If you are looking for a show stopping display of spring flowers then why not try planting   primary colours of Red, Blue and Yellow in the same bed.

A sweeping display of blocks of colour contrasting with the other primary colours can have a stunning effect. Over planting with primary-coloured annuals will help the design continue through summer. This list starts off with bulbs in the primary colours but you can use whatever takes your fancy,  as you will see, I like Polyanthus.

More Primula seeds from Thompson & Morgan

Reds mainly Tulips

  • Small early red Tulips are Daylight and Show-winner.
  • For elegant Tulip shapes try Fosteriana Red Emperor, Charles or the more muted Rosy Dream.
  • Abba and Carlton are doubles to sing about.
  • Appledorn, Hollands Glory and Red Impressions remind you where most tulips come from but Barbados is a stunning fringed red to add to your selection.

Blues avoiding Purples

  • Muscari Azureum or other Grape Hyacinths are some of the best blues. I like Blue Spike, Super Star and Valerie Finnis.
  • Hyacinths, Crystal Palace, Blue Star, Delft Blue, Ostara and Kronos are just some of the blue varieties to try. Personally I would not bother with the yellow Hyacinths such as City of Harlem
  • Camassia, Chinodoxa and Anemone ‘Lord Lieutenant’  are varied bulbs flowering blue.
  • Dutch Iris are some of the finest blue flowers, Hildegard and Sapphire Blue. Iris reticulata, Joyce and Cantab are also well worth growing.

Yellow Aconites to Zantedeschia

  • For something a bit different try yellow Iris Danfordiae, Fritilliaria Raddena or Ixia Yellow Emperor.
  • Crocus species Chrysanthus Dorothy, Fuscotinclus and Romance are small yellow crocus whilst Golden Mammoth is just what it says, Golden and Mammoth.
  • Jonquilla Daffodills grow to about one foot and bloom freely. Baby Moon, Trevithian and the double Pencrebar are worth trying.
  • King Alfred did more than burn the cakes he had ‘the’ yellow Daffodil named after him.
  • Tamara, Carlton and Fortune are worthy substitutes

Grow Primula Candelabra Species

Flowers in May

Colourful Candelabra Primulas are great plants for shady damp locations. They originate from China and the Himalaya and are ideal for woodland, streamsides or damp banks. There are many species, hybrids and varieties to grow and collect.

Description of Candelabra Primula

  • Candelabra Primulas make clumps of strong oblong shaped leaves often persisting through the winter .
  • Primula from the Proliferae section send up tall stems on which there are whorls of ten flowers, each ring opening in succession, perhaps one every five or six days.
  • There can be up to six or seven whorls that gives a long flowering period from May.
  • There is a mass of colour from brilliant orange or yellow, purple, red, pink, white, even dark maroon.
  • There is often a powdery white ‘farina’ or white meal on the stems and leaves.
  • Plants can grow and flower 24″-36″ tall.

Flowers in May

Candelabra Primula Species and Varieties

  • Candelabra Primula pulverulenta purple to mauve flowers.
  • Primula Bulleesiana is one of the strongest and easiest candelabra varieties to grow.
  • Primula helodoxa golden yellow flowers up to 3 feet high.
  • Primula beesiana from Yunnan in China. Has rose-purple flowers. P. bulleyana is similar but with orange flowers and grows to 2 feet high.
  • Harlow Carr Candelabra hybrids show how easily these species cross fertilise. In addition to Harlow Carr gardens there is a good show of flowers at Picton Castle gardens in Pembrokeshire.
  • Candelabra Primula poissonii has vivid purple flowers with a distinct golden yellow centre.
  • Primula aurantiaca has late flowering orange or yellow whorls of flowers.
  • Primula cockburniana have whorls of ten or so flowers with each ring opening in succession.
  • Primula secundiflora thinner purple flowers, not my favourite.
  • Many Primulas from the Primula japonicas including ‘Apple Blossom’ are candelabra varieties from the Proliferae section
  • Primula pulverulenta Bartley hybrids available from Kevock Garden
Primulas at Harlow Carr

Primulas at Harlow Carr

This photo was taken in summer 2008 at RHS Harlow Carr in Yorkshire. The garden is renown for its variety of Candelabra Primula Hybrids.

Grow Candelabra Primula

  • Candelabra Primulas prefer partial shade and can only be grown in a sunny position if the soil is always moist.
  • Plants grow best in deep, peaty soil or any soil rich in well rotted organic matter.
  • Primulas prefer winter and spring light values that are weaker than in high summer
  • There are hybrids between Primula bulleyana and Primula beesiana flowers in varying cerise shades

Simple Primula Tips

  • Candelabra Primulas or Bulleesiana are easy to grow from seed that can be bought from RHS shops. Many primulas do not come true to seed.
  • From Harlow Carr hybrids you get a range of pastel colours which themselves self seed.
  • They like damp roots and these particular primulas were growing on the banks of a stream
  • Candelabra primulas get there name from the whorls of flowers blossoming in a tiered effect part way up the stem as well as at the top.
  • There are over 350 species of Primula and they would make an excellent subject for building a collection.
  • Primulas can be divided if you want a plant true to type

One of the best book currently available is Primula by John Richards

Book Cover


Growing Primrose


Primrose (Primula Vulgaris) is a native wildflower of the UK. It suitable conditions it can be found in woodland and hedgerows. In the garden there are many cultivate types of Primrose. They have brighter and more showey flowers, though for purity and simplicity, it is hard to beat the natural primula.


In Latin Primula means literally ‘first rose’. It is highly valued as one of early spring flowering perennials.

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