Plant of the Week
Candelabra Primrose, Japanese Primrose
Latin: Primula japonica
Gardeners share a love of the natural world and are always excited to learn
about new plants and new gardens. On Nov. 5, gardeners in the northwest Arkansas
area will have the opportunity to do both when Scottish nurseryman and plant
explorer Jim Jermyn discusses new and interesting plants of Japan. One of his
special interests is primroses. One of my favorite primroses is Primula
japonica, the Candelabra Primrose.
The candelabra primrose is a large primrose, as primroses go. It produces the
normal basal rosette of leaves, but in this species the leaves can grow up to a
foot long. The cabbage-like leaves are an unobtrusive light green with an
herbaceous character, dying away with first freezes of winter.
In the spring, the leaves reappear and in late April, erect spikes of flowers
bloom. The flowering stem can reach two feet in height if plants are grown in a
sunny bog, but in my irrigated shade garden they grow from 16 to 18 inches tall.
The blooms are borne in three to six clusters around the lengthening flower
scape, creating a kind of upside down candelabra. Blooms are white, red or pink
and about an inch in diameter; plants remain effective in the garden for two to
Primroses are a diverse group of plants with more than 400 species. They have
a reputation for being somewhat difficult to grow, but until I’ve killed a plant
at least three times, I refuse to give up on it. With Japanese primrose, I was
surprised to find how easy it is to grow and how well it has performed in my
Jermyn will be telling us about groovy plants to grow in the rock garden. He
will be speaking at 11 U.S. cities and throughout Canada under the sponsorship
of the North American Rock Garden Society. The Ozark Rock Garden Society and the
U of A Department of Horticulture are sponsoring his Fayetteville visit.
Jermyn is an internationally recognized authority on Asian plants. His most
recent book is an account of plants from the high Himalayas and how to grow them
in the garden. For 20 years he managed one of the United Kingdom’s premier rock
garden nurseries, Edrom Nurseries (see to view some of the plant gems they grow)
where he won many awards at the various flower shows held in Scotland and
England. He now lives in Berwickshire, Scotland and lectures widely in Europe
and the United States.
The talk will be at 7 p.m. in the Plant Science Auditorium on the UofA
campus. It's free and all are welcome. The Plant Science building is on Maple
Street, just to the north of Old Main. Free parking is available in the various
University lots, several of which are located one block north of Maple Street.
Japanese primrose is not commonly available in local nurseries. I grew my
plants from seeds obtained from the Rock Garden Society. Of the various
primroses I have grown, it is probably the easiest to grow from seed. Plants
flower a year after seeding. In its native habitat, Japanese primrose is a bog
plant but it seems to grow well in shaded areas that can be watered during the
summer. Incorporate plenty of organic matter into the bed prior to planting. For
most effective display, crowd the plants in at about eight inch spacing to
create a mass display.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension News -
October 24, 2003
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.
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