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(Family Primulaceae)

There are some 500 species in the genus Primula of which P. obconica, P. sinensis and P. malacoides are the most important for pot culture. Of lesser importance but useful as pot plants are primroses (P. vulgaris), polyanthus (P. vulgaris elatior) and P. kcieensis.

Primula malacoides was introduced into Great Britain in 1905 by George Forrest. The first introductions were a wishy-washy mauve pink, with small flowers and spindly growth, frail of habit, and with a deplorable tendency to rot at the crown of the plant at the slightest overwatering.

However, discerning nurserymen saw the possibilities inherent in the plant, and by a careful

Primula malacoidej is known as the ¡ airy 1'nmrow because of its tlaimy (lowers.

selection and breeding programme transformed the original species to a remarkable degree. By 1912 several hybrids possessing white and double flowers were recorded and two years later a very vigorous form with deep pink flowers was introduced. The hybrids available today are obtainable in pure white mauve, various shades of pink and deep red.

Primula obconica was introduced from China in 1880, where it was found in the Ichang gorge in 1879 by Charles Maries. The hybrids which have been raised from the original species are available in white, blue, salmon and crimson shades.

Primula sinensis, sometimes called the Chinese primula, was introduced from Canton, China, in 1820, hut it was not until 1909 thai large-flowered hybrids appeared.

Primula kewensis is not a true species but a hybrid which was produced by chance in the greenhouses of Kew Gardens in 1898.

As will be appreciated from the descriptions already given, much breeding of primulas took place during the first half of this century, and many of the hybrids raised were offered as named varieties. Nowadays, as with many other plants, the seedsmen offer packets of mixed colours, but some do still offer named varieties of P. obconica and P. malacoides.

Primula malacoidej is known as the ¡ airy 1'nmrow because of its tlaimy (lowers.

Yellow Flower Plant Pot

Primula ktwnsn has fragrant yellow flowers.


Primulas are grown from seed sown in well-drained pots using JI seed compost or a soilless sowing compost. The seeds are very fine and should be sown on the surface, after which tap the pots lightly on a solid surface, so that the seeds settle into the compost. Do not shade the seed pans but leave exposed to the light, but not direct sunlight, covering with a sheet of glass or a plastic bag.

As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle they should be pricked out into boxes, if you are growing a fair number, or alternatively into 3-in (7.5-cm) pots, using JI No.2 or equivalent. At this stage it is most important to ensure that the seedlings are planted at the correct height, i.e. the crown of the plant should be level with the surface of the soil.

If the crown is below the surface the plant will rot, and if above the surface it will not stand upright. The crown is the junction of the leaves with the stem. When the small pots are well-rooted, pot into 4-in (10-cm) or 4V2-in (11-cm) pots, or if you have pricked out into boxes, transfer first of all to 3'^-in (8.5-cm) and later to 4'/2-in (I I-cm) pots. For this final potting use JI No.2 or compost E6.

The sowing and potting culture already described applies to all six of the primulas with which we are concerned, but the growth requirements differ slightly, and at this stage it is necessary to differentiate, P. nialamides, P. keioentis and P. sinensis are best sown from early to late spring; P. obconica from late winter to mid-spring; and polyanthus and primroses late spring to early summer.

Primula ktwnsn has fragrant yellow flowers.

All the primulas should be kept in a frame throughout the summer, and shaded from direct sunlight. At the beginning of autumn remove from the frame into the cool section of the greenhouse at first, until the weather becomes colder, then move P. obconica, P- kewensis and P. malacoides into the warmer section, where an average temperature of 45°F (7°C) is maintained. A drop to 40-42°F (4-1>0C) on very cold nights will not damage the plants. On the other hand P. sinensis requires a higher temperature, about 50-55°F(10- 13°C),

Polyanthus and primrose plants are kept in the cool scction throughout the winter, as they are both hardy plants and will in fact stand frost.

Primulas are very useful plants for house decoraiion because not only arc they attractive and colourful, but they flower from late winter to spring, a period during which flowering pot plants are not easy to find,

P. obconica will flower for months, but unfortunately has the disadvantage that it causes a skin rash to people who are allergic to the chemical secreted in the hairs on the underside of its leaves, and if you are one of these people always wear gloves when handling the plant.

All these primulas are treated as annuals and the greenhouse varieties are scrapped after (lowering, but the polyanthus and primrose can he planted in the garden where they should bloom for years.

SjihipjttUd imatttka h better known as the African Violet, despite many of the hybrids having pink, red. blue or white flowers.

Primula Hybrid Flowers

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  • steven
    Can primulas stand frosts?
    8 years ago
  • medhane
    Can primulas stand frost?
    8 years ago
  • russom
    How to Grow a Primula obconica from Seed?
    8 years ago

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