I have always loved primulas and luckily my damp shady garden affords almost ideal conditions for the Asiatic members of the genus.

Primula vulgaris cultivar

Polyanthus cultivar

The gardener's usual introduction to primulas is with the colourful spring flowering primrose and polyanthus types, along with Primula denticulata and, the now less seen, Primula rosea grandiflora and Primula 'Wanda', which make nice showy pot plants for the garden centres to merchandise. Because most hardy primulas die back to winter buds and such as Primula rosea grandiflora are very small and more suitable for a rock garden, I can only assume that many have been either dug up by accident or even given up for dead when grown in the open garden which has detracted from their popularity. 

The next step, particularly for people who have boggy areas or ponds are the Candelabra Section of Primulas, the cultivars of Primula japonica along with Primula florindae from the Sikkimensis Section being the most popular.

Primula florindae - Sikkimensis Section
Primula alpicola - Sikkimensis Section
syn: Primula alpicola alba 

Primula alpicola - Sikkimensis Section
syn: Primula alpicola violacea
Primula pulverulenta - Candelabra Section
Primula japonica - Candelabra Section
Primula bulleyana ssp. bulleyana - Candelabra Section

Primula aurantiaca - Candelabra Section

Primula beesiana.
 Syn: Primula bulleyana ssp. beesiana.

The next most popular group are probably the Farinosae Section, primulas of this section are freely available through society lists as they all tend to set copious amounts of seed.
Primula frondosa (Farinosae Section) Bulgaria
Found in the Balkans growing in rocky clefts in woodland areas.

Primula laurentiana
This 'bird's-eye' primula comes from around the lower reaches of the St. Lawrence river as the name suggests. Prefers a damp spot on limestone. 

Primula incana (Farinosae Section) U.S.A.

Primula halleri (Farinosae Section) Europe

Primula modesta (Farinosae Section) Japan.

Primula yuparensis ssp. of Primula modesta (Farinosae Section)
Much stronger grower than Primula modesta.

Primula scotica (Farinosae Section) Scotland
A tiny gem which is, in fact, a British native hailing from the machair, pasture land adjacent to the sea, in the extreme north of Scotland and the Orkneys. I grow this in pots of a soil-less compost, peat and grit mixture which I use for most primulas, there is variation to the height of the flower stem but the shorter ones make the more balanced plants. A typical member of the section it sets abundant seed which is useful as it is reported to be short lived. A little treasure!

The next most popular range of primulas I grow are a group of woodland primulas, the Cortusoides Section.

Primula heucherifolia
Typical Section Cortusoides primula, purple-pink flowers on 6"stems. Widespread Asiatic species it prefers a moist soil in shady woodland or peat bed culture.
Primula kisoana
  Section Cortusoides Ss Geraniodes
   Although this is from society seed I am not sure of its identity, this particular plant seems to have much stronger growth and larger flowers than any of the related species I grow or its fellow siblings.
Primula jesoana. A Cortusoides Primula often known as the  Asiatic Primrose.
Primula saxatilis (Rock Primrose) Cortusoides Section
These plants could well be P.cortusoides as they have probably hybridised in the wild and are very difficult to identify.

Primula tanneri ssp. nepalensis
 Although this is one of the less glamorous members of the Petiolares Section the scent is truly overpowering at close quarters reminding one of Lily-of-the-valley.
Primula bellidifolia - Muscarioides Section
The Muscarioides Section belong to the  Eastern Himalayas, Tibet  and Western China, the most popular and spectacular member being Primula vialii.
Primula deflexa - Muscarioides Section

Primula  ellisiae

A beautiful primula from Section Parryi which is now listed as Primula rusbyi subsp. ellisiae hails from North America and is tolerant of high summer temperatures as long as it is not allowed to dry out. The buds open a dark pink and gradually fade. Lightly scented.

Primula handeliana
A Crystallophlomis Section primula from sub-section Maximowiczii, like Primula maximowiczii this Asiatic is a strong grower, it has large strap-like leaves and delicate yellow flowers carried on strong stems.

Primula maximowiczii
Primula maximowiczii, a Nivales Section primula which I believe comes from China. These young plants, in a cold mini-tunnel, are from seed that was cold sown in spring last year although they will flower in the same year from an early sowing. They like cool moist acid conditions and being strong growers do better with regular division.

Primula luteola - Caucasus Mountains


  1. So many different Primulas, I particularly like the Primula alpicola. I never did get into specialising in any particular genus but I really get it now.

  2. Thanks for that Alistair, the trouble is that, because I specialise in Primulas and Meconopsis, I have become a collector, and although I grow most of my plants from seed which gives an enormous amount of satisfaction I could never produce such a beautiful garden as the one you left in Aberdeen.

  3. Primula heaven Rick. Now you've made my wish list twice the length it was, you naughty!
    Perhaps you could answer a question for me please. Cortusa matthioli, is it now called P. matthioli?

  4. Sorry to lead you into bad ways Angie....although a love of Primulas can't be a bad thing! You are quite right, the very latest generic update is from Cortusa to Primula and of course it is assigned to the Cortusoides Section. If you haven't already go to to really indulge.