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A couple of days ago I rescued some primroses from the brink of death on a supermarket shelf. They'd not been watered and were flat as a pancake, but I knew from the summer drought that all they needed was a good drink and they'd be good as new. I was right, and they are now looking very happy on my windowsill (I will plant them out when digging a hole doesn't create a pond.)

They are nice colours with masses of flowers - orangey-red with yellow centres (like this), and white with pink or purple frills/veins on the edges of the petals, and the standard yellow centre (like this).

But now the new flowers buds are coming through I can see the new flowers are going to be different colours. The red flowers are coming through pure yellow or pale orange, and the purple edged flowers are coming through white... and I don't know why! Did the extreme drought they suffered knock them and they can't muster the energy to have multiple colours? Are they out of nutrients or cramped in their pots? Is it too warm on my windowsill? Am I being impatient and the flowers will change colour with age?

Any advice on this mystery is welcome! Thank you!


They're probably running out of dye or whatever is done to them to achieve those garish colours

Pretty sure they aren't dyed, nutcutlet. I certainly haven't been dying the ones that have been thriving in my borders for years. There's no reason I know of that they aren't bred just like any other plant that has non-native colours.


It would be interesting to know what species or hybrid they are. Our natives crossed with something else? 

Unfortunately, being supermarket plants, they have no identifiers other than "primrose" and the size of the pot (9cm), so there's nothing solid to go on there.

I did just learn about pin-eyed and thrum-eyed flowers though, here, of which I have both. Very interesting! 



The plant world is fascinating

Absolutely. Also learnt that cyclamen are in the same family as primroses!

I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens with these colour changing plants. If they want to be yellow and white then they are welcome to. Any colour this time of year is good to me!

Pretty sure they aren't dyed, nutcutlet. I certainly haven't been dying the ones that have been thriving in my borders for years. There's no reason I know of that they aren't bred just like any other plant that has non-native colours.


No Panoply, you're right. I may not have been totally serious about that, sorry

Do you think they may be the P. acaulis mentioned on another thread or a cross with vulgaris?

Primula acaulis is just an old name for Primula vulgaris. The bedding primroses are usually cultivars of P. vulgaris. No idea why they would change colour, though. Wait and see how they develop - they may end up the colour you expected.

Are the new flowers fully out?  Buds often look paler before they develop fully.  Can't think of any other reason for this other than starvation.  Well done for rescuing them.  It's nearly as bad as watching an animal die observing the way they treat plants in supermarkets.  All that effort raising them, transporting them, not to mention the peat, and then tossed.


I didn't know vulgaris used to be acaulis landgirl. 

Sorry, nutcutlet, not sure why that posted again. Certainly wasn't of my doing!

Mike, thank you for your comment. Yes, I've heard of hydrangeas changing colour. We used to throw a bucket of rusty water on ours and see them go blue. And of course those atrocious dyed chrysanthemums, they always seem to want to dye them neon colours!

Landgirl, Hester, on some of the plants they are fully out, though not as tall or large as the "right" coloured flowers, mostly they are still buds though.

Hester, it is quite miserable seeing plants neglected on supermarket shelves, I agree, especially when all they need is a drink and they're right as rain. They sell them at a reduced price all because they don't water them. It did make them very easy to bring home though. I could stack the pots on top of one another without risking breaking any leaves or flowers!

Here are some photos so you can see what I mean. The pink fringed one, in the lower right, was the only one that looked fine when I bought it, and you can just see that there are some buds that do have a pink tint to their edges, albeit paler than the older flowers, but there are also some buds that are coming through white as well.



I have some deep purple primroses that seem to get a bit paler through the season - I've noticed that in early spring (about now in fact) the leaves of these deep purple primroses are also deep purple, almost black in fact, but the leaves get greener after the flowers come out.  

I've sort of assumed in a naive sort of way that the plant starts the season with lots of whatever it is that makes the colour, and it sort of gets used up? 

I think there may be more than one plant in some of the pots - the top right one looks as if there are two rosettes.



Mixed packet of seeds not pricked out  to single plants?

Dove, those primroses sound amazing! I've never heard of them having purple leaves. Would be great to see a photo. I also have the same sort of thought about colours fading, though I thought it was more an effect of the sun bleaching them lighter, like it does with coloured paper.

Landgirl, nutcutlet, that is a good thought, as there are the odd little leaf in between some of the flowers. There are still flowers of two different colours coming from close together in each plant though. The top right one has some other smaller yellow-orange buds coming out at the back behind the middle leaf under the red flowers, so I dunno. It's hard to tell when the plants are this size and jostling for space, whether it is one plant or more. The top left one's white flowers are almost certainly from the same plant as the purple flowers though, as they're all coming up through the middle.

Ah, plants, you do confuse me!

hollie hock

I like primroses, especially the pale lemon ones, they can cross pollinate into some lovely colours

I sort of know what you mean Dove, isn't there something that you can tell a geranium and possible a foxglove by the tint in their leaves?


I find that with lots of plants Hollie  Roses with deep red flowers usually have dark green leaves, and those with paler blooms have paler leaves, and at our last home the neighbour had a long thick forsythia hedge and we would watch the twigs turn yellow at this time of year, some time before the flower buds fattened up and opened.

An interesting thing to do would be to take them out of their pots and tease them out into individual pieces and repot or replant and then see what happens colour wise.  They are tough as old boots and would benefit.  They look v crowded anyway.