Growing Candelabra Primroses

posted in: Gardening | 7
growing candelabra primroses

Growing Candelabra Primroses is so easy! Primulas were once just flowers that I associated with late winter / early spring. When I was growing up primroses and polyanthus grew prolifically in my granddad's garden. They were one of the first flowers I grew myself as a child. The first plants that I learned how to divide and transplant. With great results! They had forgiving leaves and roots around a gardener with little fingers.

 

Little did I realise back then how diverse the Primula family really was! Years later I grew them from seed after giving the seeds 'a taste of winter' in my fridge. But it wasn't until I moved to Perthshire that I had the opportunity to grow lots more hardy Primula species. Candelabra Primroses that would flower not only in early spring but well into July September!

Candelabra Primroses need Moisture

You can grow plants like the Candelabra primroses when you have wet clay soil. They grow wild along rivers and streams in regions of China, India and Nepal.  While in your own garden you'll find that they'll happily grow among the hostas, astilbes, ligularia, astrantia and iris flowers as long as there is plenty of moisture in the soil.

 

It's inevitable that after awhile you start to become a bit of a collector. No matter how small a garden you have!  They are prolific self-seeders so you can colonise part of the garden in just over a few years.

this is an image of a clump of Primula bulleyana subsp. beesiana

Primula pulverulenta

The first one to flower in the leavesnbloom garden in May is Primula pulverulenta - The Powdery Primrose. This plant is really tough. I planted it in the coldest part of my garden and it always gets through the harshest of winters. It grows in a north facing border. Sometimes it sits under water for days at a time in the heaviest yuckiest soil you've ever imagined!

Primula pulverulenta - The Powdery Primrose
Primula pulverulenta - The Powdery Primrose

The Powdery Primrose

It's called the powdery primrose. There is a white mealy/floury farina all along the stems and flower heads. Sometimes the farina is lightly scented as in the pulverulenta species. As I mentioned earlier Candelabra Primroses self seed profusely. I've even had them try to start growing in the lawn! Even the grass has difficulty growing in that part of the garden.
this is an image of a pink single candelabra primrose flower
whorls of blooms rise up from rosettes of leaves

Then there's the Primula japonica 'Apple Blossom' with whorls of pink flowers with red eyes. It flowers at the same time as the pulverulenta ones.  You can see photos of them alongside Primula japonica 'Millers Crimson' here.

 

Primula bulleyana

In June and throughout July the Primula bulleyana start to flower in their shades of terracotta and yellow.

this is an image of Primula bulleyana

 

The Primula bulleyana subsp. beesiana  is another good strong grower. It starts to flower in shades of pink and purple from June onwards too.

 

Then there is the terracotta Primula chungensis which starts to flower in May.  It's a good plant to grow with rhododendons, azaleas and camelias. The plant likes the soil to be not so wet as long as it's grown in dappled shade.  Once I saw them in flower in Branklyn Garden alongside Meconopsis. So I decided that these would be good addition in my garden too.  Hopefully I'll have a substantial clump like this after a few years.

this is an image of Primula bulleyana subsp. beesiana
Primula bulleyana subsp. beesiana
this is an image of Amber / terracotta coloured tubular flowers from the Primula chungensis
Amber / terracotta coloured tubular flowers
this is an image of a clump of Primula chungensis growing in Branklyn Garden, Perth
A clump of Primula chungensis growing in Branklyn Garden, Perth
this is an image of millers crimson candelabra primrose

Growing from Seed

I've too many pulverulenta's growing in the garden so their seedheads will be cut off soon. I'll encourage the others instead.

 

Rather than just scattering the seed in late summer I'll be sowing it from fresh sticky green seed.

 

I watched a Gardeners World video a few months ago where Monty Don shows you how to do it.  It looks very easy. Hopefully seed germination will be as straightforward as Monty has made it look.  No fridges are required!

 

So far all of the candelabra's have thrived in the garden. But that's not been the case with all the primula's I've tried to grow. Primula rosea and Primula vialii never made it past year two.

Primula capitata

Recently I extended the primula flowering period into late August / September. Primula capitata is the latest primula to arrive in the leavesnbloom garden. Once established it will start to flower from June onwards. This one grows wild in India though it's short lived. But if you grow them together they should self seed. Maybe that's where I was going wrong with the others. I wasn't growing enough of them so that they would self seed?

 

It has a 1 ft tall deep purple flower spike with mealy white farina stems. These are growing in a different part of the garden. They like a moist but not too heavy a soil in a dappled shade location.  I've planted them near the Dodecatheon in an east facing border. The soil is much nicer to work with in that area. I try to always add mycorrhizal fungi to the planting hole. The fungi will help to build a very strong root system. As a result the primula should cope better with any dry periods in the future.

 

Here's hoping I get some flowers soon!

 

this is an image of Primula capitata rosettes of leaves
Primula capitata rosettes of leaves

 

 
 


 
Rosie Nixon
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Rosie is a passionate wildlife gardener in Scotland, a Perthshire / Tayside flower and garden photographer and writer. She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that buzzes, creeps, crawls or flutters. She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography.

Rosie Nixon
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7 Responses

  1. ann

    Love these flowers, Rosie. I wo spider if they would grow here on the Colorado prairie where we do have clay soil, too, and cold winters? I don't think that I have even seen them here.

  2. Rose

    Until recently, the only primroses I was familiar with were the smaller ones that bloom in the spring. What a gorgeous array of different varieties! You've convinced me I need to add some primulas to my garden.

  3. rusty duck

    Perfect for rainy Devon too, especially in the boggy bit down by the river. Primula chungensis is just gorgeous!

  4. myaberdeengarden

    I enjoyed this article a lot, Rosie, as I am starting to collect different primulas too. I only have one type of candelabra primula at the moment and it has taken a few years to flower. I think I maybe divided the original plant a bit too enthusiastically. I know it is supposed to be better is a shadier spot, but when I tried that it got eaten alive by slugs, so I moved it to a sunnier spot. Maybe now it is larger I can try moving it back as I think it would be happier in a damper position. Mind you today everywhere is plenty damp enough – the rain is unbelievable – I am sure some of my plants will just drown. How are you doing in Perth?
    Those Primula chungensis look spectacula with the Meconopsis.

  5. Jeri Landers

    Rosie, how very nice to see you again. I am surprised that I have not done well with the primroses as we have nothing BUT wet (and dry) clay soil. After seeing these delicate beauties in your garden, I will give them another go. We have the Evening primrose, it looks quite different, but thrives everywhere in my garden and drops seeds as well.

  6. A Garden of Threads

    Green-eyed monster of envy is raising its' head here Rosie. My sand does not grow them well, I have had great success with Primrose kisoana though. It's a beautiful pink and flowers in mid spring in my garden.

  7. Rick

    You are very much preaching to the converted here Rosie, Primulas and Meconopsis are my first love and I grow quite a few candelabra species. I save all my seed, not just primulas, in ripe condition and place it in a sealed container with some silica gel in the vegetable box of my refrigerator, this is not done specifically to encourage germination, just for storage. The seed is then cold sown along with any society seed in January or February, in fact my first sowing went in on New Year's Day this year, I know sad! Using this method I almost always have a good success rate with no failures from my own collected seed. I only mention this because, I expect like yourself, I root out hundreds of self sown primula seedlings every year.

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