Caring for primroses indoors

Growing Primroses Indoors: Tips For Primrose Indoor Care

The primrose houseplant (Primula) is often found for sale in the late winter or early spring. The cheery flowers on primroses can do quite a bit to chase away winter’s dreariness, but they also leave many owners asking how to grow primrose indoors. Primrose indoor care is important if you would like these lovely plant to survive.

How to Grow Primrose Indoors

The first thing to remember about your primrose houseplant is that the people who sold it to you did not expect you to keep it as a houseplant. Primroses indoors are typically thought of by the houseplant industry as a short term houseplant (much like orchids and poinsettias). They are sold with the intention of providing a few weeks of bright flowers and then discarded after the blooms have faded. While growing primroses indoors beyond their bloom span is possible, it is not always easy. Because of this, many people choose to simply plant their primrose houseplant out into the garden after the flowers are gone.

If you decide that you want to keep your primroses indoors, they will need bright direct or indirect light.

Primroses indoors are very susceptible to root rot, so it is important to keep them moist but not too moist. For proper primrose indoor care, water as soon as the top of the soil feels dry, but do not allow the soil to dry out as they will wilt and die quickly in dry soil. Primroses indoors also need high humidity. You can raise the humidity around the primrose plant by placing it on a pebble tray.

It is important to your success of growing primroses indoors that these plants be kept in temperatures below 80 F. They grow best in temperatures between 50 and 65 F.(10-18 C.).

Primrose houseplants should be fertilized about once a month except for when they are in bloom. They should not be fertilized at all when in bloom.

Getting a primrose growing indoors to bloom again is difficult. Most people have success if they move their primrose outdoors during the summer months and bring it back inside for the winter where the plant should be allowed to go dormant for one to two months. Even with all this, there are only even odds that your primrose houseplant will bloom again.

Regardless of whether you decide to keep your primrose after it blooms or not, proper primrose indoor care will ensure that its bright, winter chasing blooms last as long as possible.

Growing Primrose Flowers Indoors

Botanical Name: Primula species and hybrids

Out of hundreds of primrose flowers species, there are just a few that are available from florists mid-winter through spring and grown as house plants.

Give your primrose plant plenty of light and you’ll enjoy a long season of blooms.

English primrose (P. polyantha), shown here, produces a mound of bright, fragrant blooms in pink, purple, yellow, red, orange, white, and bicolors, and often have yellow centers, called eyes. Its colorful flowers grow above a rosette of mid-green oblong leaves.

Fairy primrose (P. malacoides) has star-shaped flowers on tall stems. Another tall variety is German primrose — also called poison primrose, its leaves can cause skin irritation — (P. obconica) with fragrant blooms in shades of white, lilac, red, and pink — each with a green eye.

Chinese primrose (P. sinensis) is a small plant with ruffled blooms in shades of pink and lilac.

Choose plants with buds that have just begun to open. You’ll enjoy several weeks of beautiful blooms.

Make your primrose flowers last longer by keeping them in a cool spot, lower than 65°F/16°C.

If your plant came from a florist shop with a plastic or foil wrap around it, take it off. Blocking the drainage holes in the pot may cause the roots to rot.

Want to cover a plain nursery pot? Slip it into a cachepot (a decorative container without drainage holes). I put pebbles in the bottom to keep the inner pot above the drainage water.

Primrose typically blooms for several weeks and is often tossed out after flowering because it is difficult to regrow. However, P. polyantha can be planted in a shaded spot outside in the garden for more seasons of blooms.

The biggest challenges of keeping this indoor beauty happy are its moisture and light requirements. Dry soil or direct sun will make primrose flowers wilt. Find a cool place for your plant. A bright sun porch is ideal.

Display Ideas

Set several plants together on a decorative tray. Somehow their bright contrasting colors tend to complement each other in a group.

Or display them with other winter-blooming plants, such as kaffir lily, fragrant jasmine or cyclamen.

Pinch off spent blooms to extend blooming time.

Brown leaf tips could be caused by dry air or a buildup of soluble salts in the soil. You can easily flush salts by slowly pouring room-temperature water over the soil. Wait till water drains out the drainage holes, then repeat a couple more times.

Scorched leaves (dry, brown spots) are caused by harsh sunlight. Keep your primrose plant in bright, indirect light indoors. If you set your plant outdoors in the spring, keep it in full shade.

Watch for spider mites. Dry indoor air in the winter months encourages these pests to invade house plants, another reason to keep the humidity up. You’ll first notice faint webbing on the undersides of leaves. If your plant is badly infested, get rid of it. These harmful pests will quickly move on to your other indoor plants.

Some of My Favorites

Primrose Flower Care Tips

Origin: England, Germany and China

Height: 8-12 inches (20-30 cm)

Light: Bright, indirect light. Keep plant out of direct sun, which may cause it to wilt or develop brown scorch marks.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist. Primroses need frequent watering to make them happy. Keep an indoor watering can nearby so that your plant won’t go thirsty. This plant wilts quickly when the soil is dry. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent soggy soil, which can lead to root rot. Yellow leaves are a sign of overwatering.

Humidity: Needs moist air. Set pot on a humidity tray to raise the humidity around it. Don’t mist because primroses have hairy leaves that trap water, which leads to fungus.

Temperature: Cool to average temperatures 50-65°F/10-18°C. Blooms will stay fresh longer if kept at a maximum of 65°F/16°C.

Soil: Peat moss-based potting mix, such as African violet mix

Fertilizer: Do not fertilize when in bloom.

Propagation: Sow seeds in late fall for winter blooms.

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Growing Primroses Indoors as Houseplants

By Denise

Primroses, an outdoor perennial, can be grown indoors as houseplants if you provide the right climate. These plants remind me of African Violets with their likes and growing conditions. I find that mixing the two plants in their own growing climate works well.

The Primrose (primula) likes a growing climate with cool night temperatures of 50-60° F. It also likes filtered sun and moist soil. Daytime temperatures must not exceed 80 degrees.

My new Primrose plants I purchased were forced to bloom early so I know they will need a little fertilizer and extra care. I applied an eggshell water watering to the plants when they were brought home. I make my own by using 3 eggshells to a 2-quart saucepan of water and boil for about 10 minutes. Let set for a few hours and then use on plants.

Tip: It’s best to underwater your indoor plants. It prevents soil disease and encourages healthy roots.

You may want to acclimate the plants to their new home by placing them in a terrarium covered with plastic for a day or two. You can use a plastic Ziploc bag and create the same greenhouse effect. Leave the plastic bag unzipped ½ inch and do not sit in direct sunlight.

I also check the plants over well for any signs of insects. I usually spray the plant with a homemade plant insecticide just in case there are insects in the soil. Find a climate that has adequate sunlight and cooler temps at night, but not cold temps. If I have a problem with cooler temperatures than I want at night I will place the plants in a terrarium or cover with plastic at night. This is only a problem in the winter months in my climate.

After the plants have been watered and trimmed I place them on trays with pebbles to create a humid climate for the plant and protect my tables.

When the primrose plants have finished blooming in the house it is best to plant them into the garden, or summer them outdoors in their pots and moved back into the house at the end of the season.

I have found I like to grow these plants in containers. I seem to loose too many to animals if they are planted directly in the ground. Other neighbors do not seem to have this problem. I blame it on over active squirrels!

There are at least nine varieties of Primrose. This variety I bought is the English Primrose (Primal vulgaris). It grows well in zones 5-9 and are heavy bloomers, producing 2-3 single flowers on each stalk. They are available in a wide assortment of colors: I selected, white, yellow, purple and red.

I also removed any damaged leaves, which made the one plant look sparse and removed any spent bloom. It’s always best to remove any damaged leaves to prevent insects and disease.

I was a little disappointed with the white primrose after I took damaged leaves off of it. It looked a little sad. But then I looked and saw all the blossoms the plant had nestled deep inside and knew it would look fine in a week or two.

I am hoping to get a few weeks of color in the house then I will move these plants to the greenhouse and hopefully be able to divide them for more plants for my home and garden areas.

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    • Primrose


      With more than 400 species to choose from, this cheery spring plant comes in a rainbow of colors. As you might imagine, the flowers’ shapes, colors, and sizes vary. Generally, it’s one of the earliest perennials to flower. Whether you treat it as a trusty perennial or an annual plant to brighten up a room indoors, the primrose delivers glorious color.

      genus name
      • Primula
      • Part Sun,
      • Shade,
      • Sun
      plant type
      • Perennial
      • Under 6 inches,
      • 6 to 12 inches,
      • 1 to 3 feet
      • From 6 to 18 inches
      flower color
      • Blue,
      • Green,
      • Red,
      • Orange,
      • White,
      • Pink,
      • Yellow
      foliage color
      • Blue/Green
      season features
      • Spring Bloom
      problem solvers
      • Deer Resistant
      special features
      • Low Maintenance,
      • Attracts Birds,
      • Fragrance,
      • Good for Containers
      • 2,
      • 3,
      • 4,
      • 5,
      • 6,
      • 7,
      • 8
      • Division,
      • Seed

      Colorful Combinations

      Most primroses offer dainty blossoms held in loose clusters at the tips of long stalks. Other types hold their clusters of flowers so close together that they form tight balls of color, earning the common name ‘drumstick primrose.’ Candelabra primroses produce layers of blossoms along a bloom stalk and look stunning en masse. Several species delight gardeners with a lovely scent. Plant them near a path or low bench for the best chance to catch a whiff of their soft, subtle scent.

      Check out deer-resistant plants like primrose for the Midwest.

      Primrose Care Must-Knows

      With a diverse group of plants comes the need for diverse growing conditions. Even though many of these species prefer consistent moisture, they will not tolerate wet soil and will likely rot quickly when they get too wet. It’s important to research the ideal growing conditions for your plant. With the alpine species of primrose, well-drained soil is a must. Many of the other types are native to moist alpine woodland settings, often times growing near streams and even bogs. These woodland species don’t like to dry out, so they love rich, humus-based soil that retains plenty of moisture. No matter what type you grow, all primroses have one thing in common: They like mild climates and dislike hot and dry summers, which quickly burn them out. Even if they are given all of their ideal conditions, they perform like an annual in hot weather.

      Much like soil needs, sunlight requirements for primroses vary depending on the species. Make sure to find out exactly what type of primrose you’re planting in order for it to thrive. Alpine species typically like more sun, but often perform just fine in part shade; however, many of the woodland types will quickly wilt when out in full sun and need part- shade to full-shade to flourish.

      Try these low-maintenance perennials in the Desert Southwest.

      More Varieties of Primrose

      ‘Blue Zebra’ Primrose

      Primula vulgaris has white blossoms that are striped with blue for a distinctive look. Zones 4-8

      ‘Drumstick’ Primrose

      Primula denticulate is easy-to-grow primrose that looks spectacular in large groups, the drumstick primrose has blossoms in shades of pinks, reds, and whites. Zones 4-8

      Japanese primrose

      Primula japonica belongs to the candelabra group of primroses since their flower 1-to 2-foot stems bear tiers of flowers, candelabra style. The flowers may be in any shade of pink or red as well as white, some are accented with a dark eye. Their rosettes of 6- to 12-inch-long, spoon-shaped leaves are substantial. Zones 4-8

      ‘Quaker’s Bonnet’ English primrose

      Primula vulgaris ‘Quaker’s Bonnet’ has double light orchid flowers that are borne singly, but there are plenty of them. Plants grow 6-9 inches tall. Zones 4-8

      Vial’s primrose

      Primula vialii has a rosette of large puckered leaves, from which rise leafless stems topped with startling spikes of small brilliant purple flowers, light crimson in bud. They prefer moist alkaline soil. They may reach 2 feet tall. Zones 5-8

      Plant Primrose With:

      One of the most elegant ferns available for your garden, Japanese painted ferns are washed with gorgeous silver and burgundy markings. Lady fern is equally elegant though not quite as showy. Either will add interest and texture to your shady spots. Closely related to each other, Japanese painted fern and lady fern are sometimes crossed with each other to create attractive hybrids.Unlike most ferns, these toughies will tolerate dry soil. And they will tolerate some sun if they have ample water.

      The tall spires of a stand of foxglove, rising up in the garden in early summer, is a sight to behold. Most are biennials, that is, they need two years to bloom and then die in the fall. But if you can get a stand going, they’ll reseed so prolifically it will seem they’re perennials.To be successful with foxgloves, they must have rich, moist, well-drained soil and light shade, especially in the afternoon. (They’ll do fine in full sun in the northern third of the country.) These tall plants also need to be out of any wind. Plants may rebloom if deadheaded after the first flush of bloom.

      Named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, iris indeed comes in a rainbow of colors and in many heights. All have the classic, impossibly intricate flowers. The flowers are constructed with three upright “standard” petals and three drooping “fall” petals, which are often different colors. The falls may be “bearded” or not. Some cultivars bloom a second time in late summer. Some species prefer alkaline soil while others prefer acidic soil.Shown above: Immortality iris

      Oenotheras, also known as Evening Primrose, are spreading or clumping groundcovers, native to the plains, grasslands and deserts of North America. They have large, showy four-petaled flowers in pink, white, or yellow, and create carpets of bright color in desert landscapes. Oenotheras are generally night-blooming plants, but most will stay open until midday.

      These widely adapted plants can be used in a variety of landscape situations from full sun to light shade. They are especially attractive when used in groupings and as a groundcover or color accent under desert trees such as Palo Verdes or mesquites. Evening primroses blend well with other perennial wildflowers. All types of evening primroses produce seeds that are a rich source of food for desert songbirds. The flowers attract nocturnal wildlife.

      Oenothera Berlandieri, Mexican Evening Primrose (also sold as Oenotherea Speciosa)
      The most common form of Mexican evening primrose has 1 ½ inch bright pink flowers that open in the early morning and can remain open throughout the day. This variety blooms profusely in the early spring, and can continue to flower throughout the warm season with adequate irrigation. Mexican evening primrose spreads quickly and is useful for stabilizing soil on banks or slopes. It should be used with caution in areas near irrigated beds where it could become invasive. Rangy, overgrown, or frost damaged plants can be cut to the ground. While the foliage can burn in the low 20s, regrowth occurs quickly from underground stems (rhizomes). Watch for infestations of flea beetle in spring and fall, which can be easily controlled with an appropriate organic insecticide if necessary.

      White Tufted Evening Primrose

      Oenothera Caespitosa, White-tufted Evening Primrose
      The exceptionally large, showy and fragrant flowers of the white-tufted evening primrose open in the evening and remain open throughout the night, closing when the sun reaches them in the morning. The lance-shaped blue-green leaves form a compact clump. This low growing accent is especially attractive when planted where it can be viewed from a porch or patio during the evening or early morning hours. This plant appreciates well drained soil and prefers partial shade in low desert areas. Oenothera caespitosa is short lived but reseeds readily and should be used as an accent plant and treated as a perennial wildflower.

      Saltillo Evening Primrose

      Oenothera Stubbei, Saltillo Evening Primrose
      Rosettes of bright green foliage and contrasting 2 inch yellow flowers adorn this attractive groundcover, which spreads from long, above-ground runners that root where they can touch the soil. Flowers open in the evening, and can last until late morning. Plant in areas where they can be easily viewed and enjoyed while in bloom. This non-invasive species gives a lush oasis effect and requires more supplemental water than other types of evening primroses. Saltillo evening primrose tolerates most exposures, and prefers well drained soils. During the cold winter months, the foliage will turn a deep red color, and tolerates the cool season well.

      Did you know that up to 70% of water use is outdoors? That’s why we love desert plants and feature them each month. It’s still a great time to plant, and you can learn more about the Evening Primrose and other plants on our Arizona Low-Water-Use Plants page. Visit our page on Choosing and Planting Low Water-Use Plants for tips on plant selection and how to plant properly.

      This feature is based on a concept and text originally developed jointly by the Arizona Nursery Association and the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) with partial funding from the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Learn more about these and other great desert plants at the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert plant database.

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