Primula is a large and complex genus, which includes the well-known primroses, contains about 400 species of perennials, some suitable for mixed plantings, others for bedding, while a few are happiest in a rock garden.
The plants that are described here do well in cool, damp atmospheres and moisture-retentive, preferably neutral soil. All have characteristic rosettes of spoon-shaped leaves from which the flowering stems arise. Another characteristic (but not of all) is ‘farina‘, a flour-like bloom on the stems and leaves that can provoke an allergic reaction.
Shorter growing primulas are delightful with dwarf spring bulbs and are good in window boxes. Primroses and polyanthus are archetypal cottage-garden plants, while moisture-lovers are effective near water, preferably the running water of a stream.
Primroses are among the few plants that combine happily with rhododendrons, as well as being good companions for the smaller hostas. So-called Candelabra types are distinctive and graceful plants, with flowers carried in whorls up the stems, and need rich, moist soil.
Primula beesiana. This Candelabra primula, which is deciduous or semi-evergreen, produces whorls of cerise-pink flowers in tiers on long, sturdy stems. Flowering time: from late spring to early summer.
Primula in a rock garden
Primula japonica. In moist, shady places in Japan, this pretty, deciduous primula thrives and produces red-purple to white Candelabra-type flowers.
Primula veris. The evergreen or semi-evergreen yellow-flowered cowslip is a familiar sight in damp meadows. It can be established in grass, as long as the ground is moist.
Primula ‘Victoriana Gold Lace Black’