Q. How do I care for primroses (primula)?
In winter, colorful primroses are on display at many florist shops. These perennial plants can make excellent houseplants but are best treated as annuals, to be enjoyed while in bloom and then disposed of.
Early-spring plants, primroses thrive in a cool environment. Plants purchased when in flower are best kept at 50-60°F; room temperatures over 60°F will shorten the life of the flowers. If they do experience warmer conditions, increased humidity will help extend flowering. Water plentifully, enough to keep the entire potting mixture thoroughly moist. Apply standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the entire flowering period.
It is possible, although not risk-free, to transplant an indoor primrose outdoors after spring flowering. This can be tried with the most common and popular group of primroses grown in American gardens, the polyanthus primrose, Primula x polyantha. Cold winters and snow-covered soils are not a threat to their survival, but hot, dry summers harm them. This is why they are commonly sold as annuals in garden centers. Another problem arises in early spring when the young tender leaves become tasty gourmet food for hungry rabbits. For more information, see the Missouri Botanical Garden's polyanthus primrose page.
If you do want to grow primroses in your garden, they will need full or partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. Plant several in a group under trees or shrubs where they will be shaded, and mulch them well to retain soil moisture. The American Primrose Society starter list describes how to grow and care for some of the easier varieties of outdoor primroses.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service