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Home & garden.

Updated: 9 May 2022

How to grow primroses and best varieties

Primroses are colourful early spring plants. Discover our best primrose varieties and tips for how to grow them
Ceri Thomas
Primroses

With primroses, you can recreate the natural beauty of a spring woodland, or fill your borders and pots with some very welcome colour at the end of winter. With such a huge range on offer, it can be hard to know where to start, and it doesn’t help that some of the most colourful and tempting varieties aren’t always long-lasting.

Which? Gardening magazine grew a range of popular varieties in the north and south of the UK over two years to see which would give us the best display and be hardy enough to get through UK winters.


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Key facts

PLANT TYPE Herbaceous perennial

POSITION Part shade

SOIL Fertile and moist

How to grow primroses: month by month

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune


Flowering/plantFlowering/plantFlowering
JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember


Plant/divide


Best primrose varieties

Which members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you're not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Full testing results for primroses

Variety nameOverall ratingHeight x spread (cm)Flowering durationFlower impactFlower displayPlant foliage and shapePlant hardiness/survivalPests & disease
15 x 30
10 x 20
10 x 17
10 x 22
10 x 20
10 x 25
8 x 15

USING THE TABLE OVERALL RATING The more stars the better. Rating is based on: flower impact 25%; flower duration 20%; flower display 15%; plant hardiness/survival 15%; plant foliage and shape 15%; pest and disease resistance 10%. Ratings given were taken during the second year of the trial, except for any that have rated ★ for survival, where all plants died before spring, in which case, ratings were taken in the first year of the trial.

How we test primroses

We planted five plants each of 25 varieties of primroses in early autumn at the Which? Gardening magazine trial site in Capel Manor, north London, and Alnwick Garden, Northumberland. Both sites receive a similar amount of rainfall throughout the year, but summer days in the former tend to be warmer, while in the latter, temperatures are generally cooler throughout the year.

At both sites, we planted the primroses in shady beds with free-draining but moisture-retentive soil, and used irrigation occasionally during the trial to prevent the soil from drying out in summer. We also mulched the ground to help keep weeds down and moisture in.

Once growing, we assessed the plants through two spring flowering seasons.

Caring for your plants

Planting

Primroses need moist soil that’s preferably neutral to acidic. Add plenty of organic matter, such as leaf mould or garden compost, when planting.

Primroses can be grown in a sunny spot in cooler parts of the country, but need part shade anywhere likely to experience hot summer sun.

Ideally, plant in September when conditions are cool, the soil is still warm and the plant is actively growing. Alternatively, they can be planted in spring.

Feeding

If growing in a pot, add a controlled-release fertiliser when planting, or liquid feed with a high potash food, such as tomato food, when the plants are coming into flower.

Tidying

Deadhead primroses regularly and remove any yellowing or dead leaves as soon as you see them.

Dividing

Plants benefit from being divided every few years. This can be done after flowering or in early autumn, when the soil is still warm and the plants are just coming into growth. Don't do it in spring or summer as they are dormant then.

Common growing problems

Vine weevil

Adult vine weevils eat notches out of the leaves, while their larvae eat the roots in autumn and spring, and are a particular problem in pots. Treat the compost with a biological control in late summer or use a chemical drench. There are no effective treatments for plants grown in the ground. 

Read more about vine weevil

Leaf spot

Primroses are also prone to yellow and brown fungal leaf spots. Remove any affected leaves when you see them and spray with a fungicide if plants are badly affected.