Primula - Growing Guide


The nursery offers a wide range of candelabra primulas which like particular conditions in the garden and a range of other primula species and varieties which can have more varied needs and requirements. It is probably easiest to treat these two hardy groups of common and popular garden plants separately here.

Candelabra primulas

These are robust perennials that produce tall flower spikes containing several whorls or circles of flowers which open from the bottom upwards the spikes can be 2-3ft tall. After flowering and seeding the plant dies down and the leaves more or less disappear over winter. These plants thrive in colonies in damper shadier areas and particularly like being grown in boggy areas or near streams and water. It is important that the soil around them is kept clear because they seed prolifically and the seed readily germinates on moist bare earth. Clumps can therefore grow, spread, and multiply entirely naturally although the seed are ridiculously easy to germinate if sown as soon as the seed heads go from green to brown in the summer. We offer seeds ourselves of some candelabra varieties.

We have found that if you leave different coloured candelabra primulas together they will cross themselves up, but over a few decades P. helodoxa (yellow) seems to become the dominant and longest lasting survivor. In the woodland at Caerhays nearly all our plants have yellow flowers and very few are still pink, white or red.

You can see pictures of the candelabra primulas which we offer below as well as pictures of how they grow so well in waterside conditions.

Candelabra Primula  click for larger image
Candelabra Primula
Primula Candelabra click for larger image
Candelabra Primula
Primula Candelabra click for larger image
Candelabra Primula

Other primulas

The primula species which we grow perform best in partial shade in deep, humus rich, moist, loamy or peaty soils which must not be allowed to dry out. Full sun can only be tolerated if the soil does not dry out in the summer.

With this general rule in mind the different species flower in different ways. Some have a multitude of single flowers while others have bunched clusters of flowers on stalks of varying lengths.

P. capitata grows to around 15in with dark purple flowers in flattened spherical racemes on mealy white stems from late spring to early autumn.

P. denticulata grows to around 18in and has a circle of lilac-purple flowers on a ‘drumstick’. These appear from mid spring to summer.

P. florindae grows rather taller to around 3ft in height. It flowers later in the summer than most species with stout stems (18”) leading to umbels of fragrant sulphur yellow flowers.

P. sikkimensis, the Sikkim cowslip, grows to 2-2½ft and has umbels of yellow or cream flowers in late spring or early summer.

P. veris, the cowslip, is semi evergreen and grows to around 10-12in tall. It produces nodding umbels of variable yellow flowers. This species grows best in much the same conditions as candelabra primulas.

P. vialli has very different flowers. In summer, when most other primulas are over, it produces poker-shaped spikes of flowers which are red in bud opening, from the bottom upwards, to a multitude of lilac flowers. This can be a short lived species but it will self-seed itself into the bare earth nearby if given a chance.

P. vulgaris is the common primrose which needs no introduction. It is illegal to dig these plants from the wild so our plants are nursery cultivated from wild collected seed.

P. ‘Wanda’ is a wonderfully resilient plant which, when grown in a row, makes an excellent edge to a formal border. It has a multitude of solitary deep scarlet-red flowers and keeps the odd one or two in maturity long into the summer although its main flowering season is in the spring. Here bees have cross pollenated ‘Wanda’ with wild primroses so that the woodland garden now has a few clumps of wild primroses that are pinkish brown and shades of mauve. Well worth growing to achieve this long term effect.


Visit the Caerhays Castle website
Order the 2022 Burncoose Catalogue
Payment methods accepted
watch us on you tube
Visit Burncoose House - Holiday Accommodation
Burncoose Nurseries: Gwennap, Redruth, Cornwall TR16 6BJ
Telephone: +44 (0) 1209 860316 Email:
© Burncoose Nurseries 1997 - 2022      Website by Forgecom
All plant pictures are copyright © Burncoose Nurseries unless otherwise stated.
No rights are given to download any of our pictures and use them (for personal or professional use) without our consent.