Orchid Primrose

Orchid Primrose; aka,
Pagoda Primrose; aka,
Wayside Primrose

"Her mist of primroses within her breast
Twilight hath folded up, and o'er the west,
Seeking remoter valleys long hath gone,
Not yet hath come her sister of the dawn."

-George William Russell


Foxtail or "poker" blossoms create veritable candelabrums for July & August, above the basal leaves of Primula vialii (very commony mispelled P. viallii or P. vialli). These look like the flowers of no other primrose, but are more like fattened-up speedwells.

The foxtail begins with bright red bracts, then develops orchid pink petals starting from the bottom, resulting in bright-red points that look like flames over orchid-colored candles. These flowers are long-lasting, & the stalks can raise one or two feet above the short basal leaves, suitable for cutting for bouquets.

If grown from seed they flower their second year. They can also be propagated by division. They like loamy soil in dappled shade. They require a bit more moisture than most primula species & can even be regarded as bog plants or water marginal plants. With even a slightly dry day, the leaves will lay down flat on the ground, looking exhausted. Ours is growing right next to a soaker-hose so it remains moist.

Although this Chinese primula is very hardy if kept moist, its lifespan in the best of conditions is not long. A clump will last three or four years if it really likes its location. It has been honored by the Royal Botanical Society with the Award of Garden Merit.


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