Polyanthus Primrose

By: C. Colston Burrell
Polyanthus primrose is a great rock garden flower for shady spots.

Most rock gardens are designed for sunny locations. But if you have no choice except to build one in a shady spot, there's no need to be discouraged: You can always grow primroses.

Description of polyanthus primrose: The polyanthus primrose produces a stemless rosette of fresh green, tongue-shaped leaves. Short flower stalks arise from the center of the rosette, each bearing a cluster of 1- to 2-inch flowers in a wide array of colors. They may be blue, purple, pink, red, yellow, or white and often with a contrasting central eye. The flower stalks can be up to 1 foot in height, but dwarf varieties, with stalks so short they barely rise above the leaves, are currently more popular. Ease of care: Moderately easy.


Growing polyanthus primrose: Plant in cool, moist, humus-rich soil in light to moderate shade. Divide them every three to four years to maintain vigor. In dry, hot climates, treat polyanthus primroses as annuals or potted plants.

Propagating polyanthus primrose: By division after flowering. Can be grown from seed but germination is irregular.

Uses for polyanthus primrose: Woodlands and shady rock gardens. They combine well with spring-flowering bulbs.

Polyanthus primrose related species: Japanese primrose (Primula japonica) bears stout stems up to 2 1/2 feet high with up to five separate whorls of flowers. It needs consistently moist growing conditions. Auricula primrose (P. auricula) is the best primrose for the drier, warmer conditions typical of most rock gardens, although it does prefer some shade. Native to the Alps, it grows perfectly in well-drained, even stony, soils. It has gray-green leathery leaves often covered with a mealy bloom and bears clusters of fragrant flowers in many shades, usually with a yellow or white eye.

Scientific name of polyanthus primrose: Primula x polyantha

Want more information? Visit the following articles:

  • Rock Garden Plants: Learn which flowers and plans work best in rock gardens.
  • Gardening: Want gardening basics – start here with our guide to gardening.
  • Rock Gardens: We answer all your questions about rock gardens.