How to Grow Primula Plants

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Primrose, Cowslip & Oxlip

Although members of the Primula plant genus are hardy or half hardy perennials, they are frequently grown as annuals in the garden.

They are a large genus, and therefore have a large range in height of between 7 and 90 cm (2 to 36 inches). Most garden grown Primula plants are below 30 cm (12 inches).

Primula vulgaris
Primula vulgaris – Primrose by Anemoneprojectors; creative commons.

The time of year that Primula blooms in is species dependent. The blooming time ranges from late in winter through to summer.

Primula are rosette plant,s and may have flat, tubular or bell shaped flowers.

Primula by Hello-Julie.

As they love moist soil, Primula make great little plants to grow in boggy areas, as well as in borders or in rock gardens.

Some common names for Primula genus members include Primrose, Cowslip, English Primrose, Fairy primrose, and Polyanthus.

Commonly Grown Primula Species Photographs and Plant Identification

Primula vulgaris

Primula vulgaris
Primula vulgaris (Pink and white forms of the Common Primrose / English Primrose), photograph by Maja Dumat; CC.

Primula veris

Primula veris syn. Primula officinalis

Primula veris
Primula veris (Cowslip / Cowslip Primrose), photograph by Kristian Lindqvist; CC.

Primula auriculav

Primula auricula
Primula auricula (Auricula / Mountain Cowslip / Bear's Ear), picture by Judy Dean; CC.

Primula Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Primrose, Cowslip, Oxlip, Auricula. Primrose: German; English; Scottish; Arctic; Snowy; Anise; Northern; Burma; Ruby mountain; Fairy; Giant.
Family: Primulaceae.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial or half hardy perennial commonly grown as a half hardy annual by gardeners.
Height: 2 to 36 inches (5 to 90 cm).
Native: South America, Europe, Asia, Northeast Africa.
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 10.
Flowers: From the end of winter, through spring and/or summer.
Flower Details: Purple, white, pink, yellow, red. Bi-coloured. Flat. Bell-shaped. Tubular. Sometimes clustered.
Foliage: Rosette.
Sow Outside: Surface. Autumn (warm areas). Spacing 5 to 20 inches (12 to 50 cm).
Sow Inside: Mix seeds in a growing medium, place in a freezer bag, keep moist, then stratify by refrigeration for three weeks. Germination time: one to six weeks in the light. Temperature 60°F (16°C). Two months before expected last frost. Transplant outdoors following the last frost.
Requirements: Partial shade; full sunlight in cold areas. Good drainage. Soil pH 5.5 to 7. Humus rich soil. Moist soil. Cool soil. Feed once during vegetative growth period. Perennials should have their stems cut back following flowers and given a summer mulch to keep roots cool. Propagate perennials by dividing in the autumn.

How to Grow Primrose (Primula Plant)

The primrose seeds should be sown on the surface in the autumn. As they are difficult to grow from seed in many areas, you may prefer to use Primula plants bought from a garden center. Plant these out following the last frost of spring.

In both cases, small varieties of Primrose should be spaced about 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) apart; and larger Primula varieties about 40 cm (16 inches) apart.

Primrose plants prefer a partially shaded area of the garden, but may require a fully sunny area in colder regions.

The soil should be moist and humus rich, with very good drainage, and a slightly acidic to neutral pH (5.5 to 7).

When starting off primrose from seed indoors, do so about 2 to 3 months in advance (with a view to transplanting them outdoors after the last frost of spring).

The seeds should be mixed into soil, and put in a plastic bag. Put the bag in the fridge for 20 days. The Primrose seeds should then be moved into the light (out of the plastic bag), and germinated at 15 to 18 degrees centigrade (59 to 64°F). This should take from two to six weeks.

Caring for Primrose - Primula in your Garden

It is fairly easy to look after primrose, Cowslip and other Primula plant genus members. They have a preference for a cool soil, so it is good to supply a mulch before summer.

Primula should be fed with a non-organic fertiliser just before flowering. Following flowering remove stems, and top dress the soil that the Primrose grows in with peat moss.

If you require more Primula plants then they can be propagated by division.

Common Questions

How many members does the Primula genus contain?

The Primula genus, the Primroses, contains around 500 species.

Do Primula members make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Primula plants are highly prized in gardens for their vibrant early spring blooms. They also thrive in shady, moist areas.

Which Primula species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Some of the most commonly grown species are Primula vulgaris (Common Primrose) and Primula veris (Cowslip).

Are Primula plants fragrant?

Some Primula species, such as Primula veris (Cowslip), have a sweet fragrance, especially in the evening.

What is the perfect location to grow Primula?

Primula prefer cool, moist conditions, and do well in partially shaded areas with rich, well-drained soil.

Is Primula invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Currently, Primula species are not listed as invasive in the USA. However, be aware that they can self-seed abundantly under favourable conditions.

How do I remove Primula plants from my garden?

Primula can be removed by carefully digging up the plants, ensuring that all the roots are removed to prevent regrowth.


The Primula plant genus, part of the Primulaceae family, includes species known as the Primroses. They are perennial plants notable for their clusters of vibrant, often fragrant flowers and rosettes of leaves.

These plants prefer partial shade and moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Plant Primula in the spring or fall. Their charming flowers make them a favorite in cottage gardens, woodland gardens, or near water features.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Primula plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Soldanella, Hibiscus plant, Aster plant, and Cyclamen plants.