Unusual, recurved flowers in electric hues make Primula look like the shooting stars of their common name.

Arching clusters of purple/pink petals flying out behind a bright yellow base and dark flower tube, look not unlike a thrown dart or pointy badminton bird making its descent. Because this is on a somewhat miniature scale (the petals are only ¼ - ¾” long) the effect isn’t cloying or overwhelming in the garden, but is instead an intriguing sight in spring! 

Primula can be found throughout most of North America, and there are several species native to Oregon: Primula alpinum, Primula austrofrigidum, Primula conjugens, Primula dentatum (white flowering), Primula hendersonii, Primula jeffreyi, Primula poeticum and Primula pulchellum. Some are more obscure, and in a few cases endangered.

Primula hendersonii, poeticum and pulchellum are most commonly available in nurseries.

Primula hendersonii

Primula hendersonii: Henderson’s Shooting Star

This is the Shooting Star frequently found in the cool, moist, shady areas of the Willamette Valley and into the lower elevations of the Cascade Range. In leaf March to July, it flowers generally April to June on slender stalks rising 12-18” above the basal leaf cluster, with 4-5 of the distinctive and bright flower nodding above. Brings a splash of color to the cool, mossy greens of the woodland garden. Summer dormant.

Primula poeticum

Primula poeticum: Poet’s Shooting Star

This species of Primula is found almost in every county in Oregon, and generally is widespread throughout the region. This is the Shooting Star of more open, sunny areas and drier woodlands.  In the wild it is often found along seepages and other areas that give abundant springtime moisture followed by necessary dry conditions in summer, when thePrimula poeticum is dormant. The flowers (generally 5) cluster at the top of the slender flowering stem, but this one is shorter, rising only 2-10” above the leaves.


Primula pulchellum: Few-Flowered Shooting Star

This may be the Shooting Star best suited for the rock garden or container garden; though it grows in a variety of conditions, it is the one found in sub-alpine meadows – suggesting the need for better than average drainage to help protect it from our soggy winters. As the common name describes, the small flowers that gracefully float 12-18” above the foliage generally number only three per stalk.