The showy primrose (Oenothera speciosa) is a type of evening primrose that, because of its nickname is often confused with plants in the Primula genus. This primrose, however, blooms in soft pink flowers and spreads by runners, making it a lovely flowering groundcover. A native wildflower, showy primrose seeds thrives in poor soil and has a number of uses, from filling a bare garden spot to being featured in a rock garden.
Timing and Preparation
The best time to plant showy primrose seed (you can buy them online, here) is in spring, when the air temperature reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose the sunniest place in the garden and remove all weeds in the area. Loosen the top 2 inches of soil with a gardening fork to allow the seedling’s roots to more easily penetrate the soil as they grow. There’s no need to amend the soil with compost as the showy primrose actually thrives in poor and even rocky soil. The soil does need to drain freely, however, so if you have heavy clay soil, throw in a 3-inch layer of coarse sand and mix it into the top 6 inches of soil.
Seeding the Showy Primrose
Scatter the showy primrose seeds across the surface of the soil and, since they require light to germinate, don’t cover them, but rake them lightly into the top one-quarter inch of soil. If you’re seeding a large area, mix the seeds with an equal amount of sand and use a hand-held broadcast spreader (available here) to spread the mixture evenly across the soil. Water the seeds right after planting and keep them moist during germination. As long as the air temperature remains between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the showy primrose seeds should germinate from within 20 to 45 days.
Care of Showy Primrose Seedlings
Maintaining evenly moist soil during and after germination will ensure that the showy primrose plants get off to a good start. Be careful not to overwater them, but keep the top inch or two of soil slightly moist. When the seedlings get their second set of leaves, fertilize them with all-purpose plant food, diluted to half the strength listed on the product’s label. If the weather is particularly warm at this time (over 80 F), wait until late afternoon or early evening to apply the fertilizer to avoid scorching the showy primrose seedlings. When the plants reach three inches in height, remove the weaker seedlings, leaving 12 to 18 inches between those that remain.
Since showy primroses are perennial, you won’t need to reseed the following season. In fact, toward the end of the blooming season, if you mow the plants to a height of 5 inches, they may come back and bloom again in late summer or early fall. After this bloom has finished, mow the plants to 3 inches in height and they’ll return the following spring when the weather warms.
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Photo Courtesy: By ZooFari (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons