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What is a Fairy Primrose?

By Donn Saylor
Updated: Jan 26, 2024

Fairy primrose plants are small, ornamental shrubs native to China, distinctive for their vibrant red and pink flowers. Though they are typically annual plants, fairy primrose can also be biennial plants or perennial plants, depending on how and where they are grown. They are considered easy to cultivate, and their pinkish colors add a light and delicate air to gardens or windowsills.

Fairy primrose is a member of the Primula malacoides family of plants. Originally grown in China, they were first brought to the West by Scottish botanist George Forrest, who put them on display at Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden. They are related to cowslip, oxlip, and auricular plants, which are also members of Primula family. Fairy primrose is sometimes known as Baby primrose.

The fairy primrose blooms from late winter to mid-spring. Their flowers grow in umbels, or clusters, where the youngest blooms are located at the center of the bunch. Colors of primrose blossoms can be rose, mauve, fuchsia, pink, or even white, and they boast a crisp, sweet scent.

A fairy primrose shrub is fairly small, ranging from 12–18 inches (30–45 centimeters). They are an evergreen plant, and their foliage is characterized by a slightly furry, light green texture. Their leaves, which can grow to be 4 inches (about 10.2 centimeters) long, have been known to attract whiteflies, red spider mites, slugs, and snails. Dead leaves should always be removed from the fairy primrose.

There are two ways to cultivate a fairy primrose, depending on location and temperature. As garden plants, they can be planted 9–12 inches (22–30 centimeters) apart in climates that consistently stay above 40°F (4.5°C). They have equal success growing in either containers or gardens and are popular as edging plants; they tend to attract butterflies. It is important to remember that the fairy primrose does not withstand frost. Before the first frost of the season, the shrub can be taken inside and easily replanted as a houseplant.

When utilizing the fairy primrose as a houseplant, the shrub should be contained in a flowerpot large enough to accommodate its stature and placed in full or partial sunlight in average indoor temperatures. They can also be grown in a cool, well-shaded greenhouse. The soil should be well-drained and regularly watered with warm water. The fairy primrose should never be over-watered. Though they are beautiful to look at, every part of the fairy primrose is poisonous if consumed.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Apr 30, 2014
Fairy primrose flowers are so beautiful. I love how they bloom in clusters and I love their slightly sweet scent.

The fairy primrose is not as well known as some other types of primrose. Like the evening primrose is well known because of its oil. The most well known primrose is probably English primrose. There is also something called a beach evening primrose but it's actually not related to primrose at all. It was named this way because the flowers have a scent similar to primrose.

By literally45 — On Apr 30, 2014

@donasmrs-- The article already mentioned this, the scientific name of fairy primrose is Primula malacoides. It also goes by the name baby primrose because it has small delicate flowers.

It's true that fairy primrose has a variety of colors like white, yellow, pink and purple.

I have several pots of yellow and white fairy primrose. These do really well as house plants as they prefer mild conditions. But they can also be grown in the garden in areas that don't experience extreme cold or heat. They bloom fairly early so they add color and life to a garden in early spring when the other flowers are not ready to bloom just yet. I believe some fairy primrose bloom as early as January!

Mine have been doing well indoors with partial sunlight and soil that's just moist.

By donasmrs — On Apr 29, 2014

What is the scientific name of fairy primrose? There are many plants in the Primula family and they all look a little different with different colors.

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