The Primula is a genus from the Primulaceae family. This is a large family and it also contains hundreds of Primulas. The Primula is native to the temperate northern hemisphere, the temperate southern South America and almost half of the known Primula species is from the Himalayas.

Some examples of well-known Primula species:

  • Primula vulgaris (common primrose or primrose) also known by the old name Primula acaulis
  • Primula veris (cowslip): a group of funnel-shaped flowers on a tall flower stem
  • Primula elatior (oxlip)
  • Primula japonica (Japanese primrose)
  • Primula denticulate (drumstick primrose): globular head of small flowers on top of a tall stalk
  • Primula auricula (auricula or mountain cowslip): evergreen, large flowers in a group on top of a tall flower stem

The flowers emerge above the wrinkled, elongated leaves in spring. The flowers are fragrant and attract butterflies and bees. If you remove the spent flowers you can prolong the bloom. That way the energy is not spent on making seeds but on making new flowers. In autumn you may see a modest second bloom.

Primulas prefer humus-rich, moist and well-drained soil. They do not like drought or too much heat and prefer a spot in part shade. If the Primula does well it spreads through seeds. The seeds need a period of chilling to break dormancy. You can also dig up the clump that is formed after a few years and divide it. They are easily repositioned even in bloom.

Most Primulas are perennials and some are (semi) evergreen. It happens that Primulas make shoots that look different (a sport). That may result in nice new varieties. Also cross-pollination may result in beautiful new species.

Many Primulas bloom in spring, but there are also Primulas that bloom in summer. Examples of those are: Primula bulleyana, Primula florindae and Primula pulverulenta.




Attracts bees: yes

Characteristic: newly emerging every year

Exposure: sun/part shade

Flower colour: various

Flowering time: March – May

Foliage colour: green

Fragrant flower: yes

Hardiness: -25 ºC (-13 ºF)

Height: 8 inches (20 cm)

Soil: normal/moist