Red-tipped pyramids of pink cover the woodland floor in the Wild Garden and Battleston Hill when Primula vialii is in flower. This award winning woodland plant is great for late spring and early summer colour.
- Common name
- Vial’s primrose, orchid primrose, red-hot poker primrose
- Height & spread
- Up to 60cm (2ft) high x 30cm (1ft) wide
- Deciduous short-lived perennial.
- Moist, humus-rich, neutral to acid soil.
- Partial shade, will tolerate sun if soil remains moist.
- Hardy throughout the British Isles
There are around 400 species of Primula worldwide, and many more hybrids. They are mainly perennial, alpine herbaceous plants found mostly in northern temperate zones with over half the species originating in the Himalaya.
Primulas are found in a range of habitats from damp, grassy banks and riversides to the wet, stony screes of high mountains. Primula is divided into many different botanical sections with three major groupings recognised in gardens: auricula primulas; candelabra primulas; and primrose-polyanthus primulas.
Auricula primulas, much loved by the Victorians, were developed from hybrids of P. auricula and P. hirsuta. They are evergreen primulas which bear several large, flat-faced flowers of varying colours, often with the colour of the flower centres in sharp contrast to that of the petals.
Candelabra primulas take their name from the fact that the flowers on the plants in this group are arranged in whorls set at intervals up an otherwise bare stem. The general effect is like a candelabrum.
Primrose-polyanthus primulas are a very diverse group of winter or spring flowering primulas with colourful flowers either borne singly, clustered, or on long stalks. This group contains the English primrose, Primula vulgaris, which can be found blooming in early spring along hedgerows and streamsides throughout Britain.
From moist, mountainous areas of China, Primula vialii produces a rosette of leaves from which a stiff, stout flower spike grows, with purplish pink tubular flowers that are red in bud, producing a two-tone effect. They bloom from June to August and flourish in damp woodland conditions.
- Grow in deep, moist or moist but well-drained neutral to acid, humus-rich soil in partial shade.
- Can tolerate full sun if soil remains moist.
- May be attacked by aphids, vine weevil, slugs, leaf and bud eelworms.
- Propagate by division in autumn or early spring.
- Propagate by seed sown from autumn to spring.
The RHS Rock Garden Trials Plant Committee awarded Primula vialii an Award of Garden Merit and described it as a:
'Rosette-forming herbaceous perennial to 40cm, with oblong-lanceolate hairy leaves and erect stems with a terminal conical spike of light violet flowers 1cm wide, opening from red buds.'