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"Growing the Many Spring Perennial Primroses"

Spring is just around the corner and it won't be long before the first signs of spring begin appearing in the perennial garden. One of the earliest perennials to bloom in the garden is primrose. Primroses are low-growing perennials that thrive in a shady spot in the garden. In my woodland garden, I have a row of primroses planted along a stone walkway and I refer to it as my "primrose path." There are many different types of primroses with a bloom period from very early spring to early summer.

Primula elatiorPrimula elatior is one of the first primroses to bloom in the garden. It forms low rosettes of foliage. Its leaves are several inches long and heavily veined giving them a quilted look. Topping the foliage are four- to eight-inch-tall flower stems that carry clusters of flowers in shades of red, yellow, blue, pink, and white. The flowers begin blooming in very early spring and are colorful for weeks. It spreads to form a dense colony.

Primula sieboldiiPrimula sieboldii is another early-blooming primrose. In early spring it bears airy clusters of flowers held above small, quilted leaves. Flowers are shades of rosy pink or white and bloom for many weeks. It naturalizes to form a dense colony and is a nice companion to spring-blooming wildflowers.

Primula auriculaPrimula auricula is commonly called alpine primrose. It has thick, large, blue-gray leaves that form a dense rosette. Foot tall flower stems carry bright-yellow flowers that bloom from April to May.


Primula veris 'Sunset Shades'Primula veris, commonly called cowslip primrose, is an heirloom primrose with colorful flowers. The variey 'Sunset Shades' bears flowers that are shades of orange to deep red with bright-yellow throats. The flowers bloom on eight-inch-tall flower stems in April and May.


Primula denticulata 'Alba'Drumstick primrose is a colorful primrose that blooms from mid spring to early summer. It's called drumstick primrose because of its uniquely-shaped flowers. It bears rounded flower clusters atop its slender flower stems. The flowers form a perfect circle and bloom in white or blue. The flower stems are tall, easily a foot high or more, and rise above a clump of long, strap-like leaves.



Primula 'Elizabeth Killelay'One of the best fragrant primroses is Primula 'Elizabeth Killelay.' It's a new variety that bears fully-double flowers that are deep maroon edged with a thin border of bright yellow. The flowers stand on eight-inch-tall flower stems and bloom in late spring.

These are just some of the many different types of spring-blooming primroses.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Always Use Sterile Pots, Soil When Starting Seeds Indoors"

Q. I recently read a newspaper article about starting seeds indoors. It mentioned using old pots, egg cartons, and other types of pots for starting the seeds in. It also mentioned using garden soil as the soil to start the seeds in. Can I start my seeds this way? I seem to recall reading somewhere else that it was not a good idea to use garden soil. Thanks for clearing this up for me.

A. The most important step in starting seeds indoors is to make sure everything is sterile. Never reuse old pots to start your seeds. The number one killer of seedlings is a disease called dampening off. It's a fungus that attacks the seedlings and causes them to die just about overnight. It can be present in used pots and no amount of cleaning can get rid of it. I always start with new, sterile pots each year. I also never use garden soil to start seeds. Garden soil can have diseases and insect eggs and will kill the seedlings. Always use sterile seed starting mix. It's free of insects, diseases, and weeds.

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