Toggle navigation

Polyanthus and Primula

Photo - Luisa Brimble


Plant a cheery winter welcome with a colourful pot of primulas near the front door. 


Primula, or fairy primrose, is a delicate-looking thing with candelabra-like bunches of small blooms balancing on fragile stems. The dainty flowers, in shades of pink, white, mauve and carmine, have a faint perfume. Plant out as established seedlings in light shade and damp soil. Relatives, Polyanthus, come as ready-made posies in pink, red, blue, yellow, cream and white, with contrasting bright yellow eyes. 


Polyanthus is technically a perennial, although works best as an annual. Flowering through the cooler months from March to September, with domed clusters of brightly coloured blooms with scalloped petals. Polyanthus is a shorter stemmed, compact plant that rarely exceeds 20cm in height and width. Polyanthus come in a seemingly endless selection of colours and vivid flower patterns.


Photo - Luisa Brimble

In pots: Lost in the garden, we think polyanthus need potting up to be the star of the season. Don’t choose a pot too big as they prefer their roots slightly constrained. Choose good quality potting mix. Liquid feed fortnightly for best results.


In the garden: They prefer a spot in dappled shade with well drained humus-rich soil with compost added. Polyanthus like a rich, mildly acidic soil which is well drained but never dry. Plant in groups of 7or 9 to get a nice splash of colour.


We like them… on a windowsill to brighten up the dullest winter day. Photo - Luisa Brimble


Give them filtered sunshine, don’t let them dry out, twice weekly watering is required. Keep flowers coming by adding a liquid fertiliser high in potash (Uplift, Thrive for Fruit and Flowers, Harvest) to the watering can once a fortnight. Snip off finished flowers and leaves regularly to keep them blooming right through winter. Pinch off dead blooms to keep the plants flowering for weeks.


Look for

Primula breeding is centred in Europe, where plants are bred and selected for compactness. But in our relatively hot, wet conditions, these compact strains can suffer with botrytis rot. Paradise Nursery (Kulnura NSW) have been breeding Primula acaulis (also known as Primula veris or Polyanthus) for 25 years. The aim of this breeding has been to develop early flowering, weather tolerant plants with large flowers held up well above the foliage, reduced incidence of fungal problems and interesting colour combinations. This programme has combined the best European breeding with the tough old heirloom varieties. Each year they grow thousands of polyanthus and select only the best for seed production. You will recognise Paradise Polys by their amazing flower colour and their vigour. Look for the ‘Paradise’ branded pots.


Text: Linda Ross

About this article

Author: Linda Ross