Primula - A quick "pick me up" for spring!

Finally, a sigh of relief with a tiny "perk me up" for Spring's arrival with the observation of Primula Vulgaris or Common Primrose in the garden centres and stores    These are the very first flowers to be found on store shelves, giving us a glimmer of hope for the arrival of sunny cheerful days. These flowers flaunt a myriad of bright and beautiful hues to help pick us up and give us hope that the tedious winter will soon be over.

Native to much of western and southern Europe, Primrose have bloomed unabashedly across England for centuries and thanks to their vibrant albeit short-lived beauty became a symbol of feminine youth and young love. In the language of flowers, a suitor smuggling an illicit Primrose bouquet into a young woman’s hands was code for “I can’t live without you.” In Norse lore, Freya is the goddess of love. Her sacred flower is the primrose and to honour  her these flowers were laid out on the altar in dedication to her.

After a surge of popularity in the Elizabethan age, primula fell out of fashion until the sooty skies of the Industrial Revolution hunkered over British cities. The grim, often squalid urbanization led workers to seek solace in whatever way they could and flowers from the countryside with flowers bright enough to light up a bleak room, circulated in massive numbers.

Growing Primula

The primula ubiquitously available in late winter are typically zone 5 (P. Vulgaris) and can have a  chance of surviving our zone 5 winters. Commonly, we don’t buy them to be a garden plant but more as an indoor plant and  for the crisp joy their colours bring us and their silent promise of spring.

Once you have picked your primula, don’t be fooled by the throng of open flowers. Make sure it has another strong flush of buds rising from the crown (centre). If it doesn’t, the colour won’t last long and the foliage isn’t nearly as pretty.

Put in any sunny spot; beside a window is best. Place your plant where it can be seen; after all, it’s there to be a visual reminder of spring. Think of England when it comes to care. The soil should be kept moist but not wet. If it dries out it will wilt quickly. As long as you catch it before the leaves are completely limp, the flowers should bounce back.  Water it every couple of days.

Avoid fertilizer. You won’t have the plant long and even if you do, fertilizer will just inspire more leaves and less flowers.

You’re welcome to plant it outside in the spring if you like, but unless the spot is protected and you have babied it with tender loving care by covering with peat moss, it may survive. If it does make it through the winter, the stress could possibly make the next year’s flowers remarkably unremarkable. It’s beauty is fleeting, but that’s the beauty of it.