The types of blooms you can expect vary among species, and some are even fragrant.

Colorful Combinations

Most primroses offer dainty blossoms held in loose clusters at the tips of long stalks. Other types hold their clusters of flowers so close together that they form tight balls of color, earning the common name "drumstick primrose." Candelabra primroses produce layers of blossoms along a bloom stalk and look stunning en masse. Several species delight gardeners with a lovely scent. Plant them near a path or low bench for the best chance to catch a whiff of their soft, subtle scent.

Primrose Care Must-Knows

With a diverse group of plants comes the need for diverse growing conditions. Even though many of these species prefer consistent moisture, they will not tolerate wet soil and will likely rot quickly when they get too wet. It's important to research the ideal growing conditions for your plant. With the alpine species of primrose, well-drained soil is a must. Many of the other types are native to moist alpine woodland settings, oftentimes growing near streams and even bogs. These woodland species don't like to dry out, so they love rich, humus-based soil that retains plenty of moisture. No matter what type you grow, all primroses have one thing in common: They like mild climates and dislike hot and dry summers, which quickly burn them out. Even if they are given all of their ideal conditions, they perform like an annual in hot weather.

Much like soil needs, sunlight requirements for primroses vary depending on the species. Make sure to find out exactly what type of primrose you're planting in order for it to thrive. Alpine species typically like more sun, but often perform just fine in part shade. However, many of the woodland types will quickly wilt when in full sun and need part-shade to full-shade to flourish.

More Varieties of Primrose

Primrose Overview

Description With more than 400 species to choose from, these cheery spring plants come in a rainbow of colors. As you might imagine, the flowers' shapes, colors, and sizes vary. Generally, it's one of the earliest perennials to flower. Whether you treat it as a trusty perennial or an annual plant to brighten up a room indoors, primrose delivers gorgeous color with its blooms.
Genus Name Primula
Common Name Primrose
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade, Sun
Height 6 to 6 inches
Width 6 to 18 inches
Flower Color Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Spring Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

'Blue Zebra' Primrose

'Blue Zebra' Primrose
Justin Hancock

Primula vulgaris has white blossoms that are striped with blue for a distinctive look. Zones 4-8

Japanese primrose

Primula Japonica
W. Garrett Scholes

Primula japonica belongs to the candelabra group of primroses because their 1- to 2-foot stems bear tiers of flowers, candelabra style. The flowers may be in any shade of pink or red, as well as white; some are accented with a dark eye. Their rosettes of 6- to 12-inch-long, spoon-shaped leaves are substantial. Zones 4-8

'Quaker's Bonnet' English primrose

'Quaker's Bonnet' English primrose
David McDonald

Primula vulgaris 'Quaker's Bonnet' has double light orchid flowers that are borne singly, but there are plenty of them. Plants grow 6 to 9 inches tall. Zones 4-8

Vial's primrose

purple and red Vial's primrose
Laurie Black

Primula vialii has a rosette of large puckered leaves from which rise leafless stems topped with startling spikes of small brilliant purple flowers that are light crimson in bud. They prefer moist alkaline soil. They may reach 2 feet tall. Zones 5-8

Primrose Companion Plants

Japanese Painted Fern

japanese painted ferns
Lynn Karlin

One of the most elegant ferns available for your garden, Japanese painted ferns are washed with gorgeous silver and burgundy markings. Lady fern is equally elegant though not quite as showy. Either will add interest and texture to shady spots. Closely related to one another, Japanese painted fern and lady fern are sometimes crossed with each other to create attractive hybrids. Unlike most ferns, these toughies tolerate dry soil, and they tolerate some sun if they have ample water.


pink foxglove flowers
Peter Krumhardt

The tall spires of a stand of foxglove in the garden in early summer are a sight to behold. Most are biennials; they need two years to bloom and then die in the fall. However, if you can get a stand going, they'll reseed so prolifically it will seem they're perennials. To be successful with foxgloves, you must provide rich, moist, well-drained soil and light shade, especially in the afternoon. (They'll do fine in full sun in the northern third of the country.) These tall plants also need to be out of any wind. Plants may rebloom if deadheaded after the first flush of bloom.


white iris blooms
Dean Schoeppner

Named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, iris indeed comes in a rainbow of colors and in many heights. All have the classic, impossibly intricate flowers constructed with three upright "standard" petals and three drooping "fall" petals, which are often different colors. The falls may be "bearded" or not. Some cultivars bloom a second time in late summer. Some species prefer alkaline soil, while others prefer acidic soil.

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