Rosette forming perennial reaching 25-30cm tall and 30cm wide.
Flowers and foliage
Small rosette forming perennial producing numerous stems of whorls of small flowers ranging from red pink and lavender to pure white from midwinter through to spring. Leaves are pale green and slightly hairy with scolloped edges.
Primroses should be planted in a cool partly shady area in the garden with rich well-draining slightly acid soil. Primula malacoides are perfect for shady areas although they can tolerate dappled morning sun. It is a plant that thrives in the cool short days of winter and early spring. They prefer soil that is rich in organic matter so it is important to add compost to the soil before planting. Its ideal setting is woodland with soil that is rich in humus and remains moist throughout the year but is also well-drained.
Preparation for planting
Primroses prefer cool temperatures rich humus soil with lots of compost and leaf mold added. Primrose plants appreciate full sun in the spring but they must have partial shade as the summer temperatures warm. Primulas are quite tolerant of being transplanted even when they are in bloom. Newly purchased plants can be set into the garden in early spring. Older plants can be divided and transplanted right after they are finished blooming. Primroses should be planted in a cool partly shady area in the garden with rich well-draining slightly acid soil (pH 6.5). Primroses must be planted so that their crown is right at the soil level and at least six inches apart. They prefer soil that is rich in organic matter so it is important to add compost to the soil before planting. Its ideal setting is woodland with soil that is rich in humus and remains moist throughout the year but is also well-drained.
Bedding plants are usually raised from seed sown under trays under cover. The seedlings are transplanted into small containers for growing on before finally being planted out. Transfer seedlings outdoors to be hardened off before planting. Soil should be friable. Prior to planting rake general purpose fertiliser into the soil at about 100 grams (about 2 handfuls) per square metre. Plant at the same depth at which the plants were growing in their container planting too deeply usually results in failure. Handle carefully to minimise root disturbance. Plant Primula malacoides 20 to 25cm (8-10 inch) apart from one from another. Water the plants before removing from their pot to plant them in beds and then again once planted. Firm in well when planting.
Primula malacoides prefers moist to wet soil and will grow well in almost any setting provided if it is kept well watered. Keep the soil moist but not sodden and pay particular attention to watering if these plants are grown in pots or baskets. Primula malacoides do not like to get thirsty. If the weather turns too warm, mulch around the plants with compost to help keep the root systems cool. It is advisable to add organic matter such as compost to the soil every second year and an annual application of lime. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage additional blooms.
This plant has moderate feeding requirements. If in beds a soluble multi-feed used every six weeks is adequate. Monthly feeding is preferable if in containers or hanging baskets. This feeding will ensure prolific blooming and healthy strong plants.
Primula malacoides are prolific self-seeders. They can be propagated by sowing when seeds are ripe or by division in late summer.
Bedding plants can be allowed to die each autumn then new plants purchased or raised from seed each spring. Alternatively, they can be left in situ to seed out and possibly carry on for the following flowering season. Larger potted or container plants may be overwintered in bright cool locations.
Ecological and biodiversity benefits
It is excellent for attracting butterflies.
Pests and diseases
Gnaw marks and slime trails indicate a problem with slugs. Handpicking the slugs and snails helps do this, preferably in the evening hours.
Companion and combination plants
Primula malacoides make a great effect in striking mass displays as companion plants to spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips and mixed with pansies phlox and Iceland poppies in sparkling herbaceous borders.
Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens
Interesting facts and tips
First flowered in cultivation from seed collected by Forrest in 1908 and the species was quickly adopted by commercial seed growers in England. Within a decade it became a fragrant colourful strain sold commercially. Many named strains were introduced in the early 20th Century and suddenly it became one of the most popular pot plants for conservatories.