Primula vialii is a very striking plant, especially when seen grown in groups, it is easy to distinguish from other primroses, its distinctive flowers have a bottle brush appearance unlike any other in the genus. A a rosette-forming herbaceous perennial, its stout stalk is crowded with hundreds of tiny flowers of red calyces and blue-violet corollas.
It is rare to find this plant in its native haunts, as it comes close, if not already, to being an endangered species.
Since the foliage is dormant for seven months of the year, the best way to plant them is as a colony under and around evergreen ferns, hostas or other small plants. Given suitably moist soil, they will also thrive in a more open situation, such as the junction of a pond and rock garden, where the right set of growing conditions is reasonably easily provided.
When they come into bloom they are spectacular. The short-lived perennials thrive in moist, humus rich, well-drained soil with lots of leaf mold. In these conditions the plants will sometimes live longer. Since they are late to leaf out in spring, mark their positions well. Easy to start from seed, they reliably bloom their second year.
Primula vialii received the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in1993.
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 from June onwards on a 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.
Germination can be erratic, although most should germinate in 4 to 5 weeks, 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.
Bedding schemes. Indoor plants, Pots and containers
Native to China (north and northwest Yunnan and southwest Sichuan), Primula vialii can be found growing in wet meadows, near water in valleys, and in thickets of prickly oak bushes, from 2,800 to 4,000 m above sea level.
Pere Delavay originally discovered the species and introduced them in 1906. Later when George Forrest found them, he concluded they were a new discovery. He named it P. littoniana after his friend, Consul G. Litton of Tengyueh (on the Burma-China frontier), who had provided considerable help in his travels in the locality
It took some time for the name to be straightened out and given back its original name, P. vialii. The name P. littoniana is now relegated to a synonym.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 6mg Average Seed Count 50 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 8,000 seeds per gram Family Primulaceae Genus Primula Species vialii Synonym Primula littoniana Common Name Poker Primrose, Vials Primrose Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Violet flowers with red calyces. June to July Foliage Mottled silver grey. Smooth textured. Height 30-60cm (12-24in) Spread 22-30cm (9-12in) Position Partial Shade Soil Moist, fertile, humus rich soil