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!
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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.
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!
The Powdery Primrose
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.
In June and throughout July the Primula bulleyana start to flower in their shades of terracotta and yellow.
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.
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.
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!
Plants For Sale (some are bare rooted)
If you can't source candelabra primrose plants at your local nursery they can be ordered online by clicking on my affiliate links below.
>Primula capitata (Round-Headed Himalayan Primrose)
Primula alpicola 3 varieties 2 plants of each (6 plants in total)