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Primula alpicola

Moonlight primrose

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Primula alpicola

Moonlight primrose

Availability: Out of stock

Packet Size:25mg
Average Seed Count:35 Seeds


Primula alpicola, commonly called the moonlight primrose, is a species of Primula native to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet. Found at about 15,000 feet it grows in vast numbers along the Tsangpo valley alongside Primula florindae. Their habitats hardly ever overlap; P. florindae prefers wetter soils close to rivers, giving way to P. alpicola on drier sites.

First collected in 1926 by Frank Kingdon-Ward, Primula alpicola grows to 25 to 50cm (10 to 20in) tall with many bell-shaped flowers. The flowers can be in several colours, white, cream and shades of violet to purple, some almost verge on the red.
These forms are sometimes referred to as varieties, such as var. alba and var. violacea; however there is some considerable inconsistency in the naming. Kingdon-Ward gave it the temporary name ‘Joseph's Sikkimensis’ after Joseph's coat of many colours because of its five varietal colours.

This lovely primula has fragrant flowers which emit the honeyed scent of carnations and lilies. The chalk-like flower stems support a large head of drooping bells, each bloom an inch long and flared at the mouth. The stems and flower buds have a most delightful farina dusted surface, a fine dust-like material thought to protect the plant from UV light.
Easily grown, Primula alpicola is not a true bog primula and is long lived in a rich soil that is damp rather than wet.

  • Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
    Primula alpicola has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Sowing: Sow seeds in late spring/early summer or late summer/autumn.
Primula seeds need a period of cold and damp to enable them to germinate. Sow on the surface of seed compost, cover with grit and keep in a shaded cold-frame or cool glasshouse.
Sow seed 2.5cm (1in) apart in trays or cells containing seed compost. Sow the seeds on the surface of the compost, (Do not cover - they need light to germinate) and place in a light position at a regular temperature of around 16°C (60°F) Germination should take place between 21 and 40 days.

Primula seeds can also be sown during warmer times of the year, but it would be necessary to artificially simulate “winter” using the following method of “stratification”:
Place the seeds between two pieces of damp filter paper or folded kitchen roll then put into a polythene bag and place this into the fridge at 4°C (39°F) which is the temperature that most fridges are set at. Inspect the seeds after two weeks and remove as the seedlings appear, returning the ungerminated seeds to the fridge.
Although most seeds should germinate in 4 to 5 weeks, germination can be erratic, it is not unknown for seeds still to be germinating up to two years after sowing. Remove the seedlings and place the pot in a shaded corner of the garden….just in case!
When seedlings have their first pair of true leaves and are large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots containing peaty compost. Grow on then gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out. Plant them in a humus-rich, moisture retentive soil and in partial shade.

The important factor is that the roots should not dry out, so incorporate plenty of organic matter when you plant, mulch well in autumn and spring and water regularly if they are in the open.
Cut back after flowering. Once established, they benefit from being lifted and divided every two years in early spring.
Allow this Primula to seed down and you will get a colourful array of seedlings to carpet the moist area.

Plant Uses:
Shade and Woodland Gardens. Underplanting of trees. Native and Natural planting schemes. Wildlife and Pollinators.

Primulas are one of the most popular species of plants which are seen in gardens. There are at least 425 species with over 300 of them found in Asia. 33 more are found in Europe and 20 found in North America.
Primula alpicola, commonly called the moonlight primrose, is a species of Primula native to Bhutan and southeastern Tibet, where it grows in vast numbers along the Tsangpo valley alongside Primula florindae. Their habitats hardly ever overlap; P. florindae prefers wetter soils close to rivers, giving way to P. alpicola on drier sites.
Found at about 15,000 feet, it was described as a variety of Primula microdonta by William Wright Smith, but later raised to a distinct species by Otto Stapf.

The genus Primrose is ultimately derived from Old French primerose or medieval Latin prima rosa, meaning “first rose".( Latin primus - meaning ‘first’ and Rosa for Rose). Primroses flowers in early spring, one of the earliest spring flowers in much of Europe.
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.
Primula alpicola is commonly called the moonlight primrose.

Frank Kingdon-Ward
Primula alpicola was first collected in 1926 by Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958). He was the last of the truly great individual plant collectors.
The primulas associated with him are too numerous to list but he will always be associated with the magnificent P. florindae, found on both sides of the Tsangpo river (and named after his first wife) and P.alpicola, which he dubbed 'Joseph's sikkimensis primula' because of its five varietal colours.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Packet Size 25mg
Average Seed Count 35 Seeds
Seed Form Natural
Seeds per gram 1,400 per gram
Family Primulaceae
Genus Primula
Common Name Moonlight primrose
Other Common Names Tibetan primrose
Hardiness Hardy Perennial
Flowers Violet, Cream, White in Summer
Foliage Mid green, oval, velvety, scalloped
Height 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in)
Spread 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in)

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