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Primrose

(Primula vulgaris )

Primroses © Edwina Beaumont/Plantlife

Primroses © Edwina Beaumont/Plantlife

One of surest signs that spring is on the way.

The name primrose actually derives from the Latin prima rosa meaning 'first rose' of the year (although it is not actually a member of the rose family). It was chosen as the County flower of Devon.

Its pale yellow flowers with orange centres can be a common sight across the UK. Wrinkled, spoon-shaped leaves form a rosette at the plant's base, from which these grow.

Primroses are one of the flowers we keep track of in our Wildflowers Count survey - click here to find out how you can help out.

Distribution

Primroses can be found blooming throughout the UK.

Habitat

It is a plant of woodland clearings, hedgebanks, waysides and open grassland preferring damp, clayey soils.

Best time to see

In the springtime. It flowers from March to May.

Status

Primrose is a native plant in Britain, and its distribution remains stable. Its decline in areas of East Anglia - following a series of hot, dry summers from 1970 onwards - hints at a possible threat posed by climate change.

Key threats

The main threat to primrose populations is the loss of the habitat in which it occurs. Abandonment of woodlands and the inappropriate management of waysides can all contribute to a local decline.

Did you know...

April 19th is dubbed 'Primrose day'!

This is the anniversary of the death of the former British Prime Minsister Benjamin Disraeli (who died on April 19th 1891). The primrose was his favourite flower and Queen Victoria supposedly sent him bunches on a regular basis. According to tradition, primrose flowers are laid at Disraeli's statue by Westminster Abbey on this date every year.

 

Grow Wild: How to grow the primrose in your garden

Preferred site: Shade

Position in garden: The Primrose makes an excellent garden plant for a variety of garden situations, including the wild garden, orchards, hedge bottoms, under trees and in the front of the herbaceous border. They appreciate light shading during the hottest months of the summer, which can be provided as taller herbaceous plants grow in early summer. Primroses benefit from planting in a fertile, well-dug soil, and from frequent division.

How to plant and when: Plant bare rooted or potted Primrose plants in autumn or spring (immediately after flowering) into well-dug, moist but free-draining soil. It is essential to keep young plants watered during the hottest months.

Propagation: Primroses are easy to propagate from seed or by division. Seeds lose their viability if stored badly, so are best sown in pots as soon as they ripen, during the early summer. They should be sown on the surface of a good seed compost and not covered with compost. The pot should be placed in a semi-shaded spot and should not be allowed to dry out: germination will take place in the autumn or following spring. Alternatively, plants can be divided, removing an excess of woody rhizome, and shortening long leaves by half: plant as for mature plants, detailed above.

Sources of plants and seeds: Plants and seeds of Primrose are very widely available from garden centres, nurseries and mail order companies, although be careful to get the true P. vulgaris and not a hybrid.