Growing primulas

by Adam Pasco

There's nothing wrong with instant gratification. Who can resist the appeal of primulas at this time of year? Certainly not me.

Pale pink and yellow primula flowersThere's nothing wrong with instant gratification. Who can resist the appeal of primulas at this time of year? Certainly not me.

I visited the garden centre a couple of weeks ago to buy seed-sowing compost (much better than multi-purpose for this particular job). On my arrival I was confronted with beds of stunning primulas, all at their peak.

Colour is lacking at the end of February as we wait for the early bulbs to bloom. A few brave grape hyacinths are showing colour, and daffodils surge higher every day. All they need is some extra warmth to encourage them to burst into flower.

Until that finally happens, I’m putting some of the empty summer patio pots to good use by packing them with primulas.

And what a choice there is. Of course there are mixtures, as I'm often told these sell best. They're not for me. Their ‘kaleidoscope’ effect is a little brash and lacking in – how can I put this? -  style. I want to choose the colours and theme my pots to create more impact. Planting several pots of different heights and sizes then allows me to group them together into displays.

March can be a dry month (apologies if it's raining relentlessly in your area), so do keep ensure your primula pots are kept well watered. Adding an occasional liquid feed won't go amiss either. Then keep picking off faded flowers to make way for new ones growing up from the base.

So far the displays are looking great, but in previous years I have found sparrows start pecking away the leaves. I'm not sure if they're hungry and simply like the taste, so I'm keeping seed feeders well stocked in the hope these satisfy their appetites and keep them off my primulas.

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Gardeners' World Web User 08/03/2011 at 15:00

I'm with you there, Adam. I love primroses and primulas and have hundreds in my garden. This week I have been dividing up the big clumps of things like Primula Wanda which was in the garden when I came. 47years ago, and is still going strong. The secret is to keep dividing and give them good soil. I pot up plugs of the double primroses in the autumn and plant them out for the winter. They are beautiful now and, as it was a mixture, I am forever finding treasures like toffee-coloured ones and a pure white. The cowslips, Primula veris, are showing buds as well and soon there will be oxslips, Primula elatior, and later the taller ones like Primula sinensis. I have so many of the family that it is no wonder I keep finding sports like the year when I had a primrose with twenty petals on one flower and only two stems fused! As for the sparrows - primula leaves are attractive food for a tiny insect which makes pinholes in them so perhaps your birds are after those?

Gardeners' World Web User 08/03/2011 at 18:30

i have bought some begonia bulbs today but am unsure how to plant them in pots someone help please

Gardeners' World Web User 09/03/2011 at 15:03

Plant begonia tubers in trays first and then pot on into small containers whe shoots appear. Hope this helps kb.

Gardeners' World Web User 11/03/2011 at 07:12

I have clumps of primula vulgaris, this year alot of them have come up a pale boring pink colour. Any idea what has gone wrong?

Gardeners' World Web User 11/03/2011 at 23:51

What a treat to see Monty Don back on our screens tonight, the rest of the team seem to gell together much better when he is with them.

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