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Need a spring tonic?

April is a dreary month in the outdoor garden as everything is usually still brown. Although we go about our outdoor spring chores, and revel in the sun on cloud-free days, there is not a lot of colour. However, we can add a blast of colour to our indoor space by buying an inexpensive primrose. At this time of year, every retail establishment seems to be selling primroses and this competition between retailers means that the price of these plants is usually very modest.

I used the words “blast of colour” intentionally as the flowers of primroses (P. polyanthus) are not the usual pastel shades of most other potted plants available in the spring. Primrose flowers come in bright, eye-catching shades of pink and red, neon orange, electric blue, brilliant yellow, as well as white and many bicolours. This plant is hard to ignore and gets immediate attention because of the brilliant hues of its blooms. The blooms of a primrose form a mound of colour held above the rosette of mid-green oblong leaves. The plants are not tall — the stems bearing the flowers are quite short and hold the blooms mere centimetres above the foliage.

After you purchase your primrose and arrive home, remove the plastic sleeve. This sleeve will impede drainage and prevent air from getting to the roots. If you don’t like the look of the bare pot, slip it into a small basket or jardinière or other decorative container of a suitable size. An inverted plastic lid or saucer in the container will allow excess water to drain out of the pot and yet prevent the pot from sitting in the water. Remember to empty this collected water from time to time so that it doesn’t accumulate and touch the bottom of the pot.

Place the pot in a brightly lit location that receives some sun but not direct midday sun. Primroses prefer cool temperatures, so keep the plant away from heat sources. These plants also like high humidity so using a pebble tray will help to increase the humidity in the air around the plant. It should not need to be fertilized as there will be enough residual fertilizer in the planting medium to last for several weeks. As individual blooms go past, remove them to keep the plant looking attractive; new buds will form to replace spent blooms.

Keep your primrose well watered; keep the soil evenly moist, but not sodden. Yellowing of the leaves indicates that the plant is being overwatered. When the last of the blooms have gone past you may want to repot the plant into a pot one size larger than the original, using a peat-based planting medium. Commence fertilizing the plant to encourage new growth and the development of new buds. Instead of repotting, the other option is to plant the primrose outdoors. I did this last year and planted my primrose in my shade garden on the north side of the house. The plant produced quite a few blooms throughout the summer and added a bright spot at the front of that border.

Whether you repot your primrose and continue to grow it in the house, plant it into the outdoor garden, or consign it to the compost bin, you will surely have got your money’s worth out of the plant by the time early summer rolls around. A primrose is a marvellous, inexpensive pick-me-up at this time of year. Treat yourself to one.

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