The Primrose Path

April 6, 2019

Several years ago a nearby discount grocer ran a special on primroses. They were blooming little beauties. Knowing they wouldn’t last long, I splurged on four, placing them in a decorative square bowl to brighten our lives for a week or so.


​Native to the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, the primrose is a plant for cool summer areas. The North American natives thrive in the cool, damp Northwest. They like rich, moist situations in part to deep shade. Primula means first, as in one of the first spring flowers. In Northern Europe, the wild ones are white or yellow while in Turkey they are pink. By 1648, English hybridizers had produced purple and blue ones as well.


Cyclamen are members of the primula family of plants. These Mediterranean natives can be found in garden centers where they are sold as winter-flowering houseplants. These spectacular hybrids are not cold hardy. However, the species cultivars are hardy to zone 5. They are related to two American wildflowers, shooting stars and cowslips.


​​I have successfully planted C. cilicium. The heart-shaped foliage is very attractive in that it is marbled with lighter shades of green with a reddish-purple underside. This autumn bloomer has little medium pink flowers. Pretty as it is, I would try to place it where you can easily enjoy it along a path or from a window.


C. coum is a very early bloomer. It may bloom from December to April depending on the environment. The foliage is plain and the magenta flowers look like miniatures of the florist’s flower.


​C. hederifollium is another with interesting foliage. The leaves have zones of silver. This one blooms from late summer into fall. The pink or white flowers are held on stems an inch or two taller than the other cultivars.


Cyclamen want dry shade. You can purchase the corms for fall planting. Corms are compressed stem tissue which function as underground storage organs. Cyclamen corms do not multiply but do grow larger year

 after year, producing larger plants.


Two catalog sources for cyclamen are Brent and Becky’s and McClure & Zimmerman.


Master gardener Ann Bartlett took the primrose pictures in (top) Arles and (middle) Paris, (where they are called primevères. She took the cyclamen pic (bottom) at Ingle's Market. Ann will be going on another of her horticultural odysseys to Europe this summer and is sure to bring home more great pics! The Planet will see what it can scare up at the Ingle's.




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