See also : Growing from Seed, Growing from Leaves.

Growing primulas depends on where you garden. What follows is a description about how I grow them in my garden in Calgary. Click here for more about my garden.

First it’s important to know that even primulas which live in drier climates are still growing in moist microclimates. Primulas do not tolerate drying out at the root. Almost three-quarters of all primula species grow in the Himalayas. The rest are scattered through Europe, non-Himalayan areas of China, Central Asia, Caucasus, North America, Siberia, Japan, and a few in SE Asia, Arabia and one species (P. magellanica) in South America. That means that the majority of primulas experience monsoon conditions. This is difficult to simulate in an open garden, though it may be done in a greenhouse with misting systems. Instead, it is best to concentrate on giving primulas moist conditions.

There are many primulas which will grow in ‘regular’ garden soil. My soil is prairie clay which I have tried to improve with compost, peat and grit. Primulas do best when given an easy root run so make the soil loose. My soil is alkaline, but the primulas don't seem to care. Some of my primula beds are located in part shade with an Eastern exposure or in the dappled shade of large trees. Primulas are heavy feeders, so the addition of compost or fertilizer to your soil is recommended. If you are a beginner try:  polyneura, veris, elatior, denticulata, auricula, frondosa, and cortusoides in these garden conditions.


Many smaller primulas do well in scree or crevice style rock beds. The key here is to tuck plants beside rocks or in the shelter of larger plants to provide a cool, moist root run and some protection from intense sun. The parts of my scree which I grow primulas in are either in part shade, or on the North and East side of the mound. Primulas that grow nicely in these beds are the smaller ones including: wulfeniana, minima, latifolia, glaucescens, and scandinavica.


My secret weapon to growing primulas is the ‘bog’, which is also known as ‘pseudobogs’ or wet beds. These are plastic lined depressions, about 12-18” deep, filled with peat, compost and sand. Bogs stay evenly moist and I suspect that the open surface of the bog provides for evaporation which keeps the immediate air cool and humid. Interestingly enough, plants that you would think could only do well in special scree conditions can do equally well in bogs, such as P. rusbyi. The neat thing about bogs is that the plants can tolerate much sunnier conditions and that makes for tighter growth and is essential to bloom plants like P. deorum, nivalis and longipes. When I plant primulas in bogs, I like to “think meadow”. Have you ever visited a meadow in spring and then again in fall and noticed how the grasses and larger perennials have grown during the summer and are shading the early blooming plants? In these conditions, the primula rosette is being shaded, but the seed capsule is held up high into the sun for ripening. In the bog, I mix in other plants such as Meconopsis and Siberian iris to simulate these conditions. Some primulas that do well in sunny bogs are: deorum, vialii, rosea, parryi, longipes, magellanica, luteola, latisecta, sikkimensis, alpicola, auriculata, calderiana, parryi, and nivalis.

What I have also created is a hybrid bog/crevice bed. See picture at side, taken in Fall. Small slabs of slate are stood on end in the Czech style, but the rocks are inserted into a bog. The bog mixture is filled up into the crevices and the whole is mulched with slate chips. I found this is very useful in my climate as a crevice beds can dry out quickly. Primulas that do well here are: spectabilis, tyrolensis, integrifolia, zambalensis, marginata, kitaibeliana, minkwitziae, and latifolia. I don’t grow primulas in troughs as they always dry out during a moment of forgetfulness and primulas are not forgiving of this.

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