Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
Primula Japonica
Credit: W. Garrett Scholes
Primula Japonica

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
  • Part Sun
  • Shade
  • Sun
plant type
  • Under 6 inches
  • 6 to 12 inches
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • From 6 to 18 inches
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
special features
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

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 out in full sun and need part- shade to full-shade to flourish.

More Varieties of Primrose

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'Blue Zebra' Primrose
Credit: Justin Hancock

'Blue Zebra' Primrose

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

Primula Japonica
Credit: W. Garrett Scholes

Japanese primrose

Primula japonica belongs to the candelabra group of primroses since their flower 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
Credit: David McDonald

'Quaker's Bonnet' English primrose

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

purple and red Vial's primrose
Credit: Laurie Black

Vial's primrose

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

Primrose Companion Plants

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