Primula malacoides, or Fairy Primula, is a wonderful bedding plant which brings cold, drab winter gardens to vibrant, bountiful life. Excluding areas with extreme drought or humidity, ever-popular primulas will grow in most parts of the country. With some care, they will flower profusely throughout winter, and well into spring. With hybridization, primulas, originally lavender coloured, are readily available in ravishing shades of purple, pink, rose, white, and crimson. They are ideal in gardens with lightly shaded areas, as they don't like temperature extremes.
For best results, wait for cool autumn temperatures, and prepare your beds in advance. Loosen the soil thoroughly, working in generous quantities of compost or manure to ensure a rich, well-drained medium. Buy healthy seedling trays from GCA (Garden Center Association) nurseries, and plant to a depth of 15cms. To encourage root growth and abundant flowering, add a fine sprinkling of phosphate-rich fertilizer. Ensure the plants get plenty of water, particularly in summer-rainfall regions and dry spells. In warmer weather, add a compost mulch to retain moisture and coolness.
Primulas, with their vibrant crinkly leaves, and layered heads of small, densely-packed, brightly-coloured flowers, make extremely rewarding, cost-effective bedding plants. They show to great effect in striking mass displays, as companion plants to spring-flowering bulbs, and mixed with viola, pansy and Iceland poppies in sparkling herbaceous borders. You can liven up your patio pots with a colourful array of gorgeous mixed shades. Versatile and long-flowering, primulas are enduring winners, adding warmth, cheer and texture to the winter/spring garden.
Information Supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. Contact Bronwen Tuck, chairperson 083 678 5907.