Primroses are perennials that come from climates ranging from mild to extreme, in a range of sizes from a few inches to a few feet tall. Although there are many species, only a few are widely available. Find rare types through plant societies and catalogs. The colors are beautiful, sometimes improbable, shades of lipstick pink, deep blue, gold, yellow, red, and purple flowers, and many more. Not all species come in all colors.
How to grow: Most primroses prefer moist but well-drained soil, cool but not freezing temperatures, and average fertility. Garden primroses can be divided in fall and immediately replanted at improved spacing, taking care not to harm the taproots. Partial shade is best for most types but this varies.
Propagation: By division and from seed.
Uses: Use primroses in pots, in garden beds, and naturalized in streamside gardens.
Related species: Primula veris is the wild type, primrose yellow, which has been used in many hybrids. P. denticulata, the drumstick primrose, has globes of flowers atop straight stems. P. heladoxa is a candelabra type with narrow whorls of flowers at intervals on the tall stems. P. japonica likes boggy soil. It is another candelabra with showy flower sprays or whorls two feet tall. P. viallii is pink and pointed, with flowers opening from the bottom up; and P. bulleyana has rusty orange flowers.
Scientific name: Primula species
If you love the primrose's surreal colors but don't have an outdoor garden, consider growing it as a house plant. We'll show you how in the next section.