Primroses have been a vibrant addition to the spring, woodland garden and containers for over a century. The name Primula is derived from the Italian word for spring primavera. An explosion of color in every shade of the rainbow, primroses primarily prefer cooler temperatures and therefore bloom early spring through May.

Primroses combine fabulously with spring bulbs, evergreen grasses and dusty miller. Some species such as Primula marginata are more diminutive and perfect for rock gardens or trough containers. Other species such as Primula japonica and Primula veris reseed and create naturalized drifts in the shade garden.

Primula auricula
Primula capita: Candelabra

The many types of primroses are divided into three basic categories. Candelabra types (i.e. Primula capita and Primula japonica) show off their flowers in tiered clusters of 6-8 blooms on 1-2 ½ ‘ stems. They are often short lived, prefer damp soil and reseed.

Polyanthus types (i.e. Primula vulgaris and Primula veris) bear bunches of flowers on 6-8” stems and bloom winter and/or early spring. This group includes the common primroses sold as color spots.

The third group is evergreen and heralds from mountainous areas. This includes Primula auricula which has small clusters of flat topped flowers in a unique range of color. They also have distinctive thick leaves with a powdery coating on the underside. These types are often grown in pots since they need sharp drainage and lime.

Here at Portland Nursery we will be carrying a wide range of Primroses this spring. We will have a rainbow of colors and types. Drop in to see what is new and blooming!


Primula auricula

Primula auricula: Mountain Cowslip

Clusters of distinctive flat topped flowers in bright colors often with a thick white eye bloom early to late spring. Rare, and a bit more challenging to grow.

Great for rock gardens and containers because they prefer superb drainage and alkaline soil. Grows 6-8” high and wide, and hardy in zones 2-9. We carry a melody of hybrids often in shades of maroon, yellow and purple.

P. bulleyana

Primula bulleyana

A candelabra type with stunning apricot to orange blooms June to July. Grows 18-24” high and 12-24” wide. This species loves moist soil and will naturalize. It also makes nice cut flowers and attracts butterflies. Hardy to zone 5.

P. japonica

Primula japonica: Japanese Primrose.

A candelabra type with white or pink flowers May-June, which grows 12-36” tall and 12-18” wide.

They thrive in moist soil and partial to full shade. They will reseed, and makes a great cut flower and attracts butterflies. Hardy to zone 5

P. malicoides

Primula malicoides

An early spring annual in the Portland area.

1” flowers are held aloft on 3-4” stems in an array of pastel shades.

Perfect for dressing up spring containers or indoors.

Primula obconica2

Primula obconica: Poison Primrose

I am not sure why these have that common name because they are absolutely darling early spring annuals!

Masses of small flowers explode in all shades of pink, lavender and white.

P. polyantha

Primula polyantha

Quite an expansive group that include some gorgeous varieties. Blooms are in clusters held on 6-8” stems. Some of our favorites are: ‘Green Lace’ and ‘Francesca’ - Apple green flowers with a bright yellow eye blooming April to June! Zone 6.

'Victoriana Silver Lace’ - Deep black-brown petals are edged in white, gold eye. Zone 5. ‘Gold Laced’ (Mahogany Sunrise) - Mahogany flowers edged in gold and gold eye. Zone 5.

P. veris 'Cowslip'

Primula veris: Cowslip

This species has clusters of pendulous blooms on 4-6” stems. It grows 8-10” high and wide, prefers moist soil and will naturalize. This species has historically been used medicinally as an astringent and mild sedative. ‘Sunset Shades’- A stunning strain with flowers in shades of yellow, orange and red. Reliable. Zone 3

P. vulgaris

Primula vulgaris: English Primrose.

These may be the most familiar primroses that are often used in winter bedding areas for their vibrant colors. Lately there has been more development with double types such as the Rosanna and Doublet series. Also, the ‘Wanda’ series has a darker leaf and the flowers are in rich jewel tones. Most of the English primroses are treated as annuals, and bloom until the weather gets hot. They can be perennial if given good drainage and regular fertilizer around bloom time.

Chinese Pagoda Primrose

Primula vialii: Chinese Pagoda Primrose

Unique spikes of small lavender flowers open from bottom to top of spike in summer.

Grows 12-18" tall by 9-12"wide.

Prefers rich, well drained, moist soil and part shade.

Hardy in zones 7 to 9.

Find the Best Perennials for your Garden

We have a wonderful selection of perennials year round, but if you are looking for a specific perennial we will have the best selection when it is in bloom around town. Note: Native plant pages will take you into the Native Plant section.


Lewisia: Bitterroot