Primula sieboldii 'Snowflake'

Primula sieboldii or Siebold primrose to grow

Primula are pretty spring flowers in a range of pinks, whites and blues and can add a fresh burst of colour to a shady area right through to early summer. Words Noël Kingsbury, photos Dianna Jazwinski

A bed planted up with Primula sieboldii – or perhaps even better,  a collection of the plants in pots – is a remarkable sight. Primula sieboldii appear in a range of colours, from white (and here we really do mean white, not cream or ivory) through to rich pinks and blue lilacs. The petal shapes are equally varied, from regular petals through to extravagantly divided ones.

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Erysimum 'Bloodgood'
© Jason Ingram

Primula is an enormous genus, with much botanical wrangling over classification. All are early and free flowering, starting into growth at low temperatures, which gives them a head start over neighbouring plants. All are from relatively unstable habitats, so produce plenty of seed to keep the species going, but rarely make reliably long-lived garden plants.

Primula sieboldii has been enjoying something of a renaissance. It is now firmly established in cultivation in both Europe and the USA, but it has yet to become common. One reason may be that to thrive long term these plants need very specific conditions. But for something so beautiful, with such a long flowering season – from mid-March to early June – and showing such a variety of colour and shape, that extra effort seems a small price. Be warned though, they are so extremely addictive you’ll find it almost impossible to buy just one. See below for Noel’s choices of Primula sieboldii.

What is Primula Sieboldi A deciduous, slow-clumping, herbaceous perennial. Also known as Siebold primrose.
Origins Northeast Asia.
Season Spring to early summer.
Size 30cm high; clumps form to a maximum of 30cm across.
Conditions Cool, woodland, light shade. Moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil. Hardiness rating RHS H7, USDA 3a-8b.

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Primula sieboldii ‘Mai-ôgi’

Primula sieboldii ‘Mai-ogi’
© Dianna Jazwinski

The undivided petals of this cultivar, known from the early 1800s, is typical of the wild plant and of older cultivars. The lush, green foliage, with the distinct scalloping of the leaf margins, is typical of all the Primula sieboldiis.


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Primula sieboldii ‘Seraphim’

Primula sieboldii 'Seraphim'
Primula sieboldii ‘Seraphim’
© Dianna Jazwinski

Originally bred by Alan Bloom at Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk, this primula cultivar has large flowers in soft mauve-blue.

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Primula sieboldii ‘Blue Lagoon’

Primula sieboldii 'Blue Lagoon'
Primula sieboldii ‘Blue Lagoon’
© Dianna Jazwinski

A pale-centred primula flower with rich, lavender-blue flowers and overlapping petals. Another cultivar bred by Alan Bloom at Bressingham.

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Primula sieboldii ‘Sumizomegenji’

Primula sieboldii - Sumizomegenji
Primula sieboldii – Sumizomegenji
© Dianna Jazwinski

A vigorous primula grower with unusual colouring: a white edge and pale centre. The blue-mauve of the petals is also repeated in the throat.

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Primula sieboldii ‘Frilly Blue’

Primula sieboldii Frilly Blue
Primula sieboldii Frilly Blue
© Dianna Jazwinski

Deeply divided petals give this primula cultivar a slightly unkempt look. However, its blue is as blue as you’ll find among the primula sieboldiis.

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Primula sieboldii ‘Martin Nest Blue’

Primula sieboldii - 'Martin Nest Blue'
Primula sieboldii – ‘Martin Nest Blue’
© Dianna Jazwinski

Slightly fringed, very pale mauve-blue primula flowers that become slightly more pink with age.

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Primula sieboldii ‘Kokoroiki’

Primula sieboldii 'Kokoroiki'
Primula sieboldii ‘Kokoroiki’
© Dianna Jazwinski

Deep mauve-tone pink primula flowers with a striking star-shaped, white, central eye. Its name translates from Japanese as ‘spirit’.

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Primula sieboldii ‘Cherubim’