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Portland Nursery

PRIMULA: Primrose

Primroses have been a vibrant addition to the spring, woodland garden and containers for over a century. The name Primula is derived from the Italian word for spring primavera. An explosion of color in every shade of the rainbow, primroses primarily prefer cooler temperatures and therefore bloom early spring through May.

Primroses combine fabulously with spring bulbs, evergreen grasses and dusty miller. Some species such as P. marginata are more diminutive and perfect for rock gardens or trough containers. Other species such as P. japonica and P. veris reseed and create naturalized drifts in the shade garden.

The many types of primroses are divided into three basic categories. Candelabra types (i.e. P. capita and P. japonica) show off their flowers in tiered clusters of 6-8 blooms on 1-2 ½ ‘ stems. They are often short lived, prefer damp soil and reseed.

Polyanthus types (i.e. P. vulgaris and P. veris) bear bunches of flowers on 6-8” stems and bloom winter and/or early spring. This group includes the common primroses sold as color spots.

The third group is evergreen and heralds from mountainous areas. This includes P. auricula which has small clusters of flat topped flowers in a unique range of color. They also have distinctive thick leaves with a powdery coating on the underside. These types are often grown in pots since they need sharp drainage and lime.

Here at Portland Nursery we will be carrying a wide range of Primroses this spring. We will have a rainbow of colors and types. Drop in to see what is new and blooming!


Primula auriculaP. auricula - Mountain Cowslip. Clusters of distinctive flat topped flowers in bright colors with a thick white eye bloom early to late spring. Rare, and a bit more challenging to grow. Great for rock gardens and containers because they prefer superb drainage and alkaline soil. Grows 6-8” high and wide, and is hardy in zones 2-9. We carry a melody of hybrids often in shades of maroon, yellow and purple.

P. bulleyana P. bulleyana - A candelabra type with stunning apricot to orange blooms June to July. Grows 18-24” high and 12-24” wide. This species loves moist soil and will naturalize. It also makes nice cut flowers and attracts butterflies. Hardy to zone 5.

P. japonica 'Alba'P. japonica- Japanese Primrose.  A candelabra type with white or pink flowers May-June, which grows 12-36” tall and 12-18” wide. They thrive in moist soil and partial to full shade. They will reseed, and makes a great cut flower and attracts butterflies. Hardy to zone 5

P. malicoides- An early spring annual in the Portland area. 1” flowers are held aloft on 3-4” stems in an array of pastel shades. Perfect for dressing up spring containers or indoors.

P. obconica- Poison Primrose. I am not sure why these have that common name because they are absolutely darling early spring annuals! Masses of small flowers explode in all shades of pink, lavender and white.

P. polyantha P. polyantha - Quite an expansive group that include some gorgeous varieties. Blooms are in clusters held on 6-8” stems. Some of our favorites are: ‘Green Lace’ and ‘Green Jade’ - Apple green flowers with a bright yellow eye blooming April to June! Zone 6. 'Victoriana Silver Lace’ (Pictured here) -Deep black-brown petals are edged in white, gold eye. Zone 5. ‘Gold Laced’ (Mahogany Sunrise) - Mahogany flowers edged in gold and gold eye. Zone 5.

P. veris 'Cowslip'P. veris - Cowslip. This species has clusters of pendulous blooms on 4-6” stems. It grows 8-10” high and wide, prefers moist soil and will naturalize. This species has historically been used medicinally as an astringent and mild sedative. ‘Sunset Shades’- A stunning strain with flowers in shades of yellow, orange and red. Reliable. Zone 3

P. vulgaris

P. vulgaris- English Primrose. These may be the most familiar primroses that are often used in winter bedding areas for their vibrant colors. Lately there has been more development with double types such as the Rosanna and Doublet series. Also, the ‘Wanda’ series has a darker leaf and the flowers are in rich jewel tones. Most of the English primroses are treated as annuals, and bloom until the weather gets hot. They can be perennial if given good drainage and regular fertilizer around bloom time.

P. vulgaris 'Hose in Hose' P. tommasinii ‘Hose in Hose’- Introduced in the last five years this line is a double, in the sense that there is one flower set inside the other.

When viewed from the side you will see the two distinct layers of flowers. Available in shades of yellow, blue and pink. Perennial to zone 5.

Photo credits to Blooming Nursery and Loghouse Nursery


Primula polyanthus 'Mahogany Sunrise Gold Lace'


Family: Primulaceae

Genus: Primula

Common Name: Primrose, Cowslip

Origin: Around 400 species are found mostly through out the Northern Hemisphere.

Culture: Primroses are woodland dwellers that prefer morning sun, dappled sun or full shade. They thrive in fertile, well-drained, acidic soil with regular water (except P.auricula like alkaline soil).

Some species such as P. japonica and P. veris are wetland dwellers while others such as P. auricula are mountain species perfect for the rock garden.

The majority of primroses are perennial in the Portland area. P. malicoides (fairy primrose) and P. obconica (poison primrose) are delightful early spring annuals.

Primula vulgaris is often sold along with pansies as color spots and treated as annuals, but have the potential to be a short lived perennial given the right conditions.

Maintenance: Remove yellowing leaves whenever present. Divide older plants after they finish blooming.

Pest and Diseases: Slugs, snails, rootweevil, root rot, botrytis and powdery mildew can all affect primroses.