The primula genus brings together about four hundred species of herbaceous plants, perennial or annual, widespread in most of the northern hemisphere; in Europe and in Italy they are very common also in the wild, with about twenty very common species; in the garden some species are cultivated, but above all an innumerable quantity of hybrids of the primula vulgaris species (or primula acaulis), the common primula of the Italian undergrowth, which in nature has small, pale yellow flowers. It produces tiny compact rosettes, made up of spatula-shaped leaves, green, covered with evident streaks, which make them wrinkled; from the center of the rosette thin stems develop, erect or arched, which bear the small flowers, with variously colored petals, and a typically yellow or contrasting eye. THE flowering of the primroses It is very early, as the name also shows; generally the first primroses they are seen flowering already in the winter period, when snow is still found in the meadows, and continues until late spring. The hybrid species are a little more delicate, and are generally grown as annuals, but they are easily strengthened in the nursery, and therefore we can find small colorful primroses in pots already in January and until April or May. They are very pleasant flowers, of small dimensions, and the ease of care and cultivation has made them very widespread; the different botanical species of primula polyantha are a little less common, except for some very decorative species.
It is the typical primula of the woods and fields, which punctuates the Italian meadows already in the middle of winter, with yellow flowers; It is a perennial plant, which develops over the months in a mild climate, and tends to dry up the air at the arrival of spring warmth, to reappear in autumn or winter. From this primrose many hybrids have been obtained over the centuries, some have a great flowering, and produce so many flowers that they constantly have a sort of bunch in the center of the rosette of leaves; some varieties, on the other hand, are particularly appreciated for their bright colors, blue, yellow, red, fuchsia; others still have double, or striated, or very unusual colored flowers. These primroses are easy enough to be iridescent, even for a normal hobby grower; therefore it may be easy to procure from year to year seeds for primroses with more varied colors.
Small perennial, native to northern Europe and Asia, with late winter or spring flowering; produces flattened rosettes, made up of spatula or oval leaves, light green; from the center of the rosette rises a thin stem, up to 20-25 cm high, which carries saucer or hemisphere inflorescences, consisting of tiny pastel pink flowers. Very decorative and pleasant plant, it needs a humid and cool climate to develop at its best, even if it endures short periods of drought; in areas with a mild climate the floral scape tends to develop a lot, reaching up to thirty centimeters in height. The name of the species derives from the fact that the foliage has a whitish powdery patina on the lower side, and also on the upper page on the recently sprouted leaves.
Semi-evergreen perennial plant native to China; together with primula vulgaris it is among the species most easily found in nurseries, especially in hybrid varieties; it is a perennial plant that cannot survive intense winter frosts, and is therefore often sold as a houseplant; in reality, in areas with very cold winters, a protection of non-woven fabric would be enough, or it is also possible to cultivate the plant in a stairwell or in a poorly heated area of the house. It produces a fairly large rosette of leaves compared to the other leaves, which in this case are cordiform, dark green, quite leathery; the rosette has a hemispherical shape and reaches a height of 25-35 cm; some stems develop between the leaves, which bear numerous white or pinkish flowers; hybrid varieties have flowers with very bright colors, purple, pink or lilac.
Primula of Asian origin, with decidedly showy and particular flowers; it is a perennial suitable to live in fresh and damp gardens, in particular in partial shade, especially on hot Italian summer days; produces a large rosette of leathery leaves, at the center of which rises, up to 35-45 cm, a rigid and thick stem, which at the apex carries a thick spike made up of flowers with red bud and pink corolla; the flowers in the ear begin to bloom from the bottom, giving the entire inflorescence a particular two-tone color. Flowering occurs in summer, and is particularly striking if more plants of the neighboring species are planted. Very decorative plant, apart from the foliage, which resembles that of the primroses vulgaris, but "hypertrophic", even close up it is hardly thought that it could be a primula; in Anglo-Saxon-speaking countries it is called orchid primula.
Species present also in the Italian undergrowth, very variable, in fact there are about ten subspecies; produces a thick rosette of wrinkled, leathery leaves, in the form of a spatula or spoon, sometimes lanceolate; between the leaves stands one or more thin stems, which carry an umbrella-shaped inflorescence, consisting of small yellow flowers, in some slightly perfumed varieties. This species is difficult to find in nurseries, but it is much easier to see it in nature, where colonies are often seen, consisting of at least 4-5 plants placed close together, in order to obtain a more pleasant effect. There are some hybrid garden varieties, with bright colored flowers. Very similar, but with larger flowers, is primula veris, which is also present in Italian forests and in uncultivated areas, has delicately scented, golden-yellow flowers.
The most cultivated primroses in pots and in the garden in Italy are hybrid varieties, derived mainly from Primula vulgaris; these are perennial plants, which develop during the fresh periods of the year, as happens with violets. So they are grown in the garden all year long, and they don't fear the winter cold; in fact, typically, they lose the aerial part and go into vegetative rest during the hottest months, while they vegetate in autumn and winter, until the beginning of spring. Flowering usually takes place in January, February and March, even when the minimum temperatures are very low. Primroses are plants suitable for a cool and damp place, and they can withstand dry and hot days; they settle in a cool area of the garden, partially shaded. The soil will be slightly acidic, quite well drained, but it will have to keep the humidity light, to prevent the plant from going into vegetative rest. Watering must be regular, throughout the growing season: as soon as we see the first shoots we begin to water, and we repeat the operation every time the soil is dry, avoiding to leave it completely soaked with water. We also avoid wetting the flowers and leaves, especially if we have a flowerbed with many specimens of nearby primrose; we therefore try to wet the soil only; if the plant is in pot, it may be more comfortable to water the vessel by immersion. During flowering, about every 10 days, we supply fertilizer for flowering plants, rich in potassium and microelements. To keep the plant always beautiful, and to prolong flowering, we periodically remove the withered flowers, cutting the stem that brings them close to the ground, so as to favor the development of new buds. Primroses are easy to grow, and often have a very low price, so much so that we hardly find anyone trying to keep the plants from year to year; as soon as the climate becomes warm, the primroses tend to dry out, losing all the aerial part; we can begin to suspend the watering, which we will start again when the cool starts, when the plant will start to sprout again. Clearly, it is necessary to avoid working the soil where the roots of small plants are present, or else the following year we will find ourselves without primroses.
Pests and diseases
The development in a fairly cold period of the year, prevents the primroses from clashing with animal parasites, such as aphids, which tend to develop only in the last weeks of plant growth, and therefore often are not even chased away by the leaves already in way of withering. Generally what kills the polyantha primroses is caused by an excessively humid climate, which favors the development of mold or rot; or from an excessively dry and hot climate, which causes an early beginning of the vegetative rest, and also the death of the plant if the drought lasts a long time. Typically, what prevents our primroses from blossoming year after year is the position in which we cultivate them and the habit of cultivation: as with the violets, these plants are often planted in the middle of winter in annual flowerbeds, or in jar; immediately after flowering, the plants are replaced by more seasonal flowers, such as geraniums, or impatiens. For this reason, the processing of the soil and the fact that we plant other plants there, irreparably destroys the roots of the primroses, which therefore the following year will have to be replaced by new plants. Another cause of death of the primroses is constituted by how they are cultivated in the nursery: often in January we find at the supermarket some primroses forced to bloom early; these primroses were cultivated in a fairly warm and humid climate, so that they bloom in advance of the season; if we take them home and immediately place them in the garden, the difference in climate between the nursery or the supermarket, and our garden, crushes them within a few days.
Propagate the primroses
The polyantha primroses propagate by seed: each flower produces some small seeds, which maintain their germination for a short period of time; as soon as we get the seeds, place them immediately in a seeding tray, which should be kept in a partially shaded place, and watered regularly, until the small seeds germinate; the seedlings thus obtained can be moved into pots, and watered and fertilized. The following year, in spring, we will be able to plant them in the ground. If desired, it is also possible to sow directly in the spring, remembering to water the young plants with great regularity. The primroses available in the nursery are mainly hybrid varieties, so their seeds will give rise to plants that will not necessarily be identical to the mother plant. If we wish to have seedlings of primroses with flowers of a particular color, we will have to buy the seeds in a specialized shop.
Primula - Primula polyantha: Curiosity
Often, behind the origins of the flowers, there are tales, legends, stories that are handed down from past generations to those of today and thus remain in our minds shrouded in a veil of mystery and make us doubt whether the story is true or not. In this case, even primroses have their ancient story to tell. It is said that St. Peter threw the keys of heaven from the sky and the place where these keys touched the ground, the first species of primroses were born. In England, for this legend, flowers are in fact called "bunch of keys" or "bunch of keys". Moreover, even Shakespeare tells of "pale primroses who die unmarried ..." in his "Winter's Tale". In fact, the primula blooms at the very beginning of the spring season, a period in which insects are not present in large quantities and many primroses are not pollinated.
Watch the video