Primroses: All You Need to Know

Translated by Nick R

Primroses are plants that you can use to decorate your garden, terrace, or balcony. Their great variety of species allows you to enjoy very diverse flowers with striking colors and well-adapted to different climates.

Primroses, like violets, are heralds of the arrival of spring and are suitable for creating various compositions outside or inside your home.

In this blog, I’ll talk about the grandiose primroses, what location best suits their needs, the required care, some of their main characteristics, and finish by sharing the most common species.

Characteristics of primroses 

Primrose species are easy to plant and care for, as I said at the beginning they are greatly diverse, which makes them a very versatile genus that you can have in any part of your home.

Next, I’ll describe some of their most significant characteristics:

GenusPrimroses belong to the genus Primula, this term derives from the Latin primus and makes reference to the early flowering of the species Primula vulgaris.
ResearchThroughout the years, several pieces of research have been carried out that allowed the classification of some species and hybrids of this plant genus.
ClassificationThe species classified are distributed in 30 sections that go from a single species to more than 100.
OriginThese plants are distributed and originated in Europe and Asia. There is a large number of known species located there.
VarietiesThis species is also known as spring and has more than 600 varieties. Each one of them has different characteristics as the color of its flowers.   
SowingYou can sow primroses in spring, although it may vary depending on the species. Besides, it’s commonly done in seedbeds.
PlacingMost species prefer semi-shade and cool, ventilated places.
UsesThey fit well in the garden in parterres, embroideries, or tapestries and in pots for terraces or balconies.

Also, these plants share a couple of characteristics with violets, as they are both herbaceous, perennial and creeping species. This is why we made a specific guide of everything you should know about violets that we recommend you to read.

Moreover, their morphological characteristics may change as there are many varieties, yet they are two very hardy and undemanding genera.

Specifications of primroses 

Taken from the book Las violetas y las prímulas – Cultivo y cuidados

Primroses are herbaceous plants whose morphological characteristics are very common in other species of the Primulaceae family. This family has a large number of species distributed in 22 genera.

Primrose roots are adventitious, that is, they develop in a different part of the plant from the usual one, and their leaves are radical (they grow directly from the roots) in the form of a rosette. For the leaves, their shape and size will depend on the habitat in which the plant is sown.

Example of primrose roots

As for the primrose flowers, they are gamopetalous, which means that their petals are welded together. The calyx (outer petals) has a bell or tubular shape, and the corolla (organs located in the center of the flower) has the form of an elongated tube with inner stamens.

The appearance of primroses is bushy or creeping and has a simple basal rosette (at the base). They have tall stems that end with flower clusters (a group of flowers growing at the same point on the stem).

Species  of primroses

Like violets, primroses are immensely varied in terms of species, which have adapted and multiplied to different areas and climates. These areas can be humid or dry, and be located in the plains, mountains, and at different latitudes and altitudes.

Next, I’ll show you the sections and groups to which some of the species of primroses belong:

Vernal Section  

Here we find the common yellow primroses such as the Primula elatior and the Primula veris that are native to Europe and Asia.

They are short and can even be acaulescent, i.e. they have no stem. You can use them to form colorful patches in parterres or other compositions.

Primula elatior

Auricula section 

More than 30 varieties can be found in this group characterized by a fruiting (woody plant) and shrubby appearance.

Usually, these species have yellow, violet, pink, purple, and even white flowers with woody stems and rhizomes.

Primula palinuri, Primula auricula, Primula auricula balbisii, Primula auricula obristii, among other varieties, can be found.

Primula vulgaris 

They have a calyx formed by 5 sepals (leaves) and a tubular corolla with 5 petals. Hybrid varieties characterized by their showy colors can be found.

Taken from

Primula malacoides 

Also known as fairy primrose, it has flowers 2.5 cm wide and is found in various colors such as lilac, white and carmine red.

Taken from Pinterest

Primula obconica 

It has rounded leaves and very large flowers up to 5 cm wide. Within its varieties, you can find flowers of different colors such as purple, pink and blue

Taken from Pinterest

Primula sinensis 

It has reddish leaves on the underside and moderate development. Its flowers are 2.5 cm wide and of various colors such as white, salmon, pink, scarlet, purple and violet.

Taken from the book Las violetas y las prímulas – Cultivo y cuidados

Where to place primroses? 

Primroses are plants that can adapt both indoors and outdoors, and you may use various compositions or pots. One great advantage is that, as they have a large number of species, it’s possible to get blooms all year round, although in summer they have a resting period.

With these elements, compositions, or pots, you can keep your garden or terrace always looking colorful and beautiful. Next, I’ll explain how you can arrange your plants within these compositions.

Primroses in the garden 

Parterres and embroideries 

Parterres can be either the garden itself or part of a garden with lawns, flowers and pathways. Embroiders are segments you find along the borders of a pathway and the beginning of the garden.

You can choose varieties that bloom at the same season and place them close to each other so that these compositions will look homogeneous. This way you’ll be able to create compositions of at least 30 cm wide in the embroiders or parterres, thus avoiding hiding the plants.

You can also create colorful patches to add even more life to your garden. With this feature plants can contrast in the best way and stand out in your garden; primroses should be harmoniously planted.

You can pre-plan the layout of your garden. In our blog about shrubs, hedges and compositions you will find the necessary information to take into account when structuring your garden with borders, patches of color, and hedges, among other elements.

Finally, you can complement your parterres, for example, with stone paths, gravel, white marble sand or decorative elements such as wheelbarrows, flowerpots or antique objects.

Combinations with other plants 

Primroses can be combined with other plant species to achieve chromatic harmony. We suggest combining them with tulips as they have different colors and sizes of stems, so you can enhance the proportion of the parterres.

You can combine primroses with short-stemmed tulips. The objective is to place the shorter plants in the front and the taller ones in the background. Or you can select varieties with similar color tones to create a chromatic effect.

In case the parterre is going to be located at a short viewing distance in the garden, you can use soft or pastel colors, but if they will be at a great distance, the best is to use strong and striking colors.    

Other features such as the color of the soil, grass and decorations will also enhance the composition spectacularly. Keep this in mind so that the garden’s appearance is not affected.

Taken from the book Las violetas y las prímulas – Cultivo y cuidados


This type of garden is made of rocks. As I mentioned earlier in the characteristics of these plants, primroses can adapt to any area. That’s why they are also a great option for this type of garden.

You can plant the following species Primula auricula, Primula rosea and Primula marginata. Keep in mind that in order to create a rock garden you need to arrange the rocks in the proper direction, there should be little exposure to direct sunlight and you should install an irrigation system.

You can fill in the gaps between the rocks with a mixture of peat and sand so as to store and retain moisture. It’s worth using other species of plants such as dwarf lavender, heather thyme or azaleas to complement the composition.

Primroses in pots 

Primroses are plants that can also be planted in pots. These pots can be used to decorate balconies and terraces or the interior of the house. But don’t forget to choose a suitable container so that the primroses can grow with no affectations.

In our blog about outdoor plants we talk about those pots that adapt perfectly to outdoor environments. Keep in mind that, although balconies and terraces are not gardens, they are still part of the exterior of the house.

Therefore, it’s essential that you use pots that can withstand outdoor conditions. One option is terracotta pots that you can also decorate as you wish. You can also use pots made of recycled materials or slightly damaged ones, which can be put inside a wicker basket.

You also have the option of using hanging plants, such as the marbled ivy, to create a polychromatic composition. You can use clay pots and add even more species such as meadow daisies, ranunculus, hyacinths or saffron flowers.

Cultivation of primroses


Primula auricula 

Primula auricula can be propagated by dividing clumps in autumn. Use a knife to separate the stems (young shoots) from the base of the mother rosette. Do this carefully so as not to damage the plant or the roots.

Transplant the shoots into pots 4 to 6 cm ( 2 to 3 in.) wide and water without puddling or causing excessive humidity; it could rot the young plants. You can also reproduce by seed, although this is a rather difficult process.

Primula vulgaris 

Primula vulgaris is also reproduced by division of clumps every 3 or 4 years. It’s done during the flowering period, between May and September. You must separate the seedlings from the mother plant and plant them in individual pots 10 cm (4 in.) wide.

They can also be planted in large pots or in the ground at a distance of 10 to 12 cm (4 to 5 in.) from each other.

Taken from the book Las violetas y las prímulas – Cultivo y cuidados

P. vulgaris can also be propagated by seed, although it is a slow and tedious process. It’s done in May and you should prepare a box with a mulch of half garden soil, ¼ of peat and ¼ of river sand.

Sow the seeds and cover the box with a sheet of transparent plastic or a plate of glass to conserve humidity. You should place the box in a shady place and after 1 month the seeds will germinate.

When they reach 2 to 3 cm in height, you can transplant them into small pots 5 cm wide. In the following spring they will be ready to be transplanted to their definitive place.

Primula malacoides 

Primula malacoides can be reproduced by seeds in summer (July or August). For that, mix 2 parts of garden soil, 1 part of peat, 1 part of sand and 1 part of mature manure.

The seedlings will germinate after 15 days at a temperature of 20 °C (68 °F) and in 4 weeks you can transplant them into 6 cm (6 in) wide pots. 8 weeks later they can be repotted into 14 or 16 cm (4 or 5 in) pots.

Primula obconica 

Primula obconica reproduce by seeds from January to June, they can germinate at a temperature of 16 °C. The seedlings can be transplanted into 7 or 8 cm (3 or 4 in) pots with peat and in a shady place.

Then you can transplant them back to a pot of 15 or 16 cm (4 or 5 in.) in diameter. Be careful in winter as these plants can withstand temperatures as low as 7 °C.

Primula sinensis 

Primula sinensis reproduces by sprouting, which involves detaching the young rooted offshoots from the stem of the mother plant. Transplant them in pots of 4 or 6 cm (2 or 3 in.) in diameter.

They can also be reproduced by seeds in May with a temperature of 10 °C, suitable for encouraging germination. You can use an organic mulch with good drainage, avoiding sowing the seeds too close to each other.

To moist the mulch, use the tray technique. Use a container filled 10 cm with water and immerse the base of the seedbed or pot in which you have the seeds. Once it gets wet, cover the seedbed with a crystal sheet or newspaper until the seeds germinate.  

Once germinated, remove the cover and place the container in a shady place. Transplant after 6 or 7 weeks in pots of 7 or 8 cm in diameter. After 4 to 6 weeks you can transplant them into pots of 15 or 16 cm in diameter.  

Primrose care 

Primula auriculaP. auricula requires fertile soil, rich in sand and humus, with good drainage and aeration. If it is grown in pots, you can use peelings, gravel or expanded clay at the base to promote drainage.
Primula vulgarisP. vulgaris enjoys a neutral, slightly acid soil, with a pH of 6 or 6.5, rich in humus, organic substances and with good drainage. In dry soils or hot climates, it cannot be grown because it cannot tolerate lack of moisture.  
Primula malacoides P. malacoides can adapt to any non-saline soil with a pH 6 or 6.5.
Primula obconica P obconica requires a slightly acid soil, with good drainage, slightly saline and rich in organic substances.
Primula sinensis P. sinensis prefers well-drained soil that is not too rich in organic substances.  
Primula auriculaP. auricula has the capacity to withstand direct sunlight well because in its wild form it can grow on rocky walls that are exposed to strong sunstroke.
Primula vulgarisP. vulgaris requires a semi-shaded location with protection from direct sunlight. However, it is possible to have the plants in direct sunlight in cool areas. In cold climates and if they are in pots, it’s necessary to protect them and cover the pot with straw, cloth or paper.
Primula malacoides P. malacoides require well-lit locations. However, avoid placing them near windows in full sun or their foliage could damage. Indoors, it likes airy places, with low humidity and a temperature of 18 °C (64 °F).
Primula obconica P. obconica likes semi-shaded locations and an ideal temperature of 15 to 16 °C that doesn’t drop below 7 °C. They should have a constant humidity between 60% and 70% and if your plants are indoors, you should keep them away from radiators or heat sources so that they do not dehydrate.
Primula sinensis La P. obconica gusta de una ubicación a semisombra con una temperatura ideal de 15 a 16 °C y que no baje de los 7 °C. Deben tener una humedad constante entre 60% y 70% y si tus plantas están al interior, es importante que las mantengas apartadas de radiadores o fuentes de calor para que no se deshidraten.
SpeciesWhen to sow 
Primula auriculaP. auricula scions can be planted in pots from 6 to 8 cm in diameter as their definitive place. You can use a calcareous mulch, i.e. with lime, and in winter you can leave the pots outside so that the cold can stimulate spring flowering.
Primula vulgarisYou can grow P. vulgaris in soil without disturbing the root balls or in pots to decorate the interior of the home.
Primula malacoides,
obconica y sinensis
In the case of P. malacoides, obconica and sinensis, they should be planted in pots proportionate to the seedlings and once they have reached their maximum size, the pots should be changed every 2 years.
SpeciesFertilization, watering and prunning
Primula auriculaP. auricula is very sensitive to waterlogging and could easily rot. For this reason, it’s recommended to water when the substrate is dry and the plant shows signs of wilting.  Remove weeds and keep the pots clean. After flowering, they should be repotted every 2 or 3 years, but you can fertilize superficially at the beginning of each season. This consists of removing about 2 to 3 cm of soil around the base of the plant and replacing it with new mulch.
Primula vulgarisP. vulgaris requires constant watering in summer, especially if exposed to sunlight. They need to be kept moist, but without waterlogging to prevent fungal diseases.  If they are planted in soil they don’t require fertilizer, but if you have them in pots, you should fertilize with slow release mineral fertilizer and in small quantities.  You can use a mulch for the parterres, and in this way protect the plants from temperature changes, dryness and weeds.  
Primula malacoides P. malacoides is a species that when gets waterlogged tends to turn yellow, that’s why we recommend watering only when the substrate is dry.   
Primula obconica P. obconica is the hardiest of the indoor primroses, but it may be affected by iron chlorosis which is a condition that causes the leaves to yellow. If this happens you can water regularly and apply iron sulfate.  Remove faded flowers during the flowering season. You don’t need to fertilize the plants, but they should be transplanted every 2 years to change the substrate. You can use ⅓ of mature, dry, sifted manure, ⅓ of garden soil and ⅓ of clayey meadow soil.
Primula sinensis P. sinensis should be watered using the tray method as traditional irrigation could uproot the seedlings in their early stages of development. It’s recommended not to provide any fertilizer during its first year of life.Avoid temperatures below 10 °C in winter and water moderately so that the plant doesn’t rot.      


Cultivated primroses can be affected by stressful climatic conditions, unsuitable substrates and excessive humidity. Because of this they can develop fungal diseases such as:

Additionally, these plants can suffer from pests such as small worms, snails, mealy bugs, spider mites and insects. You can combat them using appropriate insecticides and fungicides which can be homemade or bought from your local retailer.


Ultimately, we’ve reached the end of this fascinating blog about primroses. As you already know, there is a huge number of varieties of primroses that you can use to create eye-catching compositions in your garden or to give the interior of your house a new look.

Primroses are plants that don’t require a lot of care and have the advantage of being easy to grow. So there is no excuse to start planting these amazing plants.

Do not hold back from having an enviable garden, get to work and invite your loved ones to share the wonderful experience of gardening with you.