Candelabra Primroses

(Sub-genus Aleuritia, section Proliferae)

The information in this section is taken largely from Halda (The Genus Primula in Cultivation and the Wild), Richards (Primula) and Swindells (A Plantsman’s Guide to Primulas).  See Some Recommended Books.  Click here to see candelabra primroses in the Barnhaven website.

Primula japonica
Primula pulverulenta

General distribution – east Nepal through Sikkim, Bhutan, south-east Tibet, Assam, northern Burma to north-east Yunnan and east Sichuan, also in Java, Sumatra, Japan, and Taiwan.

Name

Origin

Native growing conditions

Brief Description

Blooming time

P. aurantiaca

West Yunnan

beside streams, alpine pastures

deep red-orange flowers – stems to 30 cm

June to August

P. beesiana

(Richards says beesiana is a sub-species of bulleyana)

NW Yunnan, SW Sichuan

moist mountain meadows, damp open forest

flowers rose-carmine with yellow eye and orange tube – stems to 60 cm

June to August

P. bulleyana

NW Yunnan

moist mountain meadows

flowers start crimson, become orange- yellow when mature – stems to 70 cm

June to August

P. x bullesiana

garden hybrid

multi-coloured flowers, yellow to crimson

June to August

P. burmanica

(Halda says burmanica is a form of beesiana)

Burma-Yunnan frontier

marshy meadows, wet clearings in conifer forests

purple to crimson flowers with a greeny-orange eye and purple tube – stems to 60 cm

May to June

 


 

Name

Origin

Native growing conditions

Brief Description

Blooming time

P. chungensis

Bhutan, Assam, W Sichuan, W Yunnan

marshes, wet ground beside streams in conifer forests

yellow to orange – stems to 80 cm

May to August

P. cockburniana

SW Sichuan

marshy, alpine meadows

dark orange tinged with red – stems to 40 cm

June to August

P. cooperi (?)

(only collected once)

Sikkim (India)

sandy stream sides and wet grassy slopes

uniformly yellow flowers, aromatic leaves – stems to 30 cm

June to August

P. helodoxa

(Richards says it is a form of prolifera)

NE Burma, NW Yunnan

stream sides, damp alpine meadows

bright golden-yellow, some farina on the scape, evergreen – stems to 100 to 120 cm

June to August

P. japonica

all the main islands of Japan

wet sites along mountain streams

purplish-red flowers – stems to 45 cm

Postford White – white with orange eye

Miller’ s Crimson’ – dark red with dark red eye

Valley Red’ – scarlet with an orange eye

May to August

(in cultivation probably the first to flower)

P. mallophylla

(never in cultivation)

East and South Sichuan

damp meadows and mountain stream sides

deep yellow flowers – stems to 30 cm

May to August

P. melanodonta

NE Burma, SE Tibet and northern India

muddy alpine slopes and stream sides

bright yellow flowers – stems to 25 cm

June to August

P. miyabeana

Taiwan (Mt. Morrison)

shady mountain woods

purple flowers, farina in calyx is yellow – stems to 60 cm

May to August

P. morsheadiana

(Richards has moved this to Sikkimensis)

SE Tibet

grassy, stony, damp slopes

golden-yellow flowers – stems to 24 cm

(according to Halda – no record of it in cultivation)

June to August

P. poissonii

SW Sichuan, West Yunnan

boggy, meadows

deep, purple-crimson flowers with a yellow eye, evergreen – stems to 45 cm

June to August

P. polonensis

Assam

stream banks and wet rocks

bright yellow flowers – stems to 35 cm

June to August

 


 

Name

Origin

Native growing conditions

Brief Description

Blooming time

P. prenantha

(rare in cultivation)

Bhutan, NE Burma, SE Tibet, Assam, Sikkim, East Nepal near Mt. Everest

boggy slopes, wet meadows, moist gravel on cliffs

brilliant chrome-yellow, cup-shaped flowers, probably the smallest primula in this section, evergreen – stem sto 15 cm

May

P. prolifera

Bhutan, North Burma, South Yunnan, Assam, Sumatra, Java

stream sides and marshy places

pale to golden-yellow flowers, but also muddy violet, evergreen – stems to 60 cm

May to August

P. pulverulenta

West Sichuan

marshy slopes, stream banks

carmen-red with dark purple eye, white farina on stems – stems to 100 cm

May to August

P. secundiflora

(only known hybrids with poissonii)

NW Yunnan, SW Sichuan,

SE Tibet

near glaciers on alpine meadows, swampy places on limestone and clay slate, near clumps of rhododendrons

reddish purple or deep red flowers, evergreen, two whorls of pendant flowers, great variability in size depending on origin of parent – low-lying plants much bigger – stems 10 to 90 cm

June to August

P. serratifolia

NE Burma, SE Tibet, Yunnan

high damp mountain meadows

(difficult to establish in cultivation)

large, yellow bell-shaped semi-pendant flowers, each petal lobe has a central bar of deep orange, evergreen – stems to 45 cm

June to August

P. smithiana

(Richards says it is a form of prolifera)

Bhutan, SE Tibet

wet meadows, stream banks

pale yellow flowers – stems to 60cm

June to July

P. stenodonta (Could be a variety of poissonii or wilsonii)

NE Yunnan

marshy meadows

reddish-violet flowers – stems to 30 cm

June to August

P. wilsonii

Sichuan and Yunnan

damp mountain meadows

red to purple flowers, aromatic leaves – stems to 90 + cm

June to August

P. wilsonii var. anisodora

Sichuan and Yunnan

moist open pastures

deep purple almost black flowers, aromatic leaves – stems to 60cm (Halda)

June to August

 

  • The majority of this section is concentrated in the border region of Yunnan-Burma-Assam-Tibet, a zone of high monsoon rainfall and deep snow.
  • Thirteen of 23 species grow in the region of the Salween, Mekong and Yangtse rivers.
  • P. prolifera (the ones growing in Indonesia) and P. magellanica (Argentina) are probably the only Primula species which are native to the southern hemisphere.
  • Pax called this section ‘Proliferae’ in 1889, but Balfour later named it ‘Candelabra’ because he thought Pax was disorganized, but we now refer to it as ‘Proliferae’, because out of 14 species Pax got 10 right; however, most of the species of Proliferae are still sold as ‘candelabra primroses’.
  • It is thought that the species in section Proliferae represent the most primitive primulas. Most primulas can be shown to derive from Proliferae
  • Many of these primulas are among the easiest to grow, soundly perennial, and fully hardy. They must never be allowed to dry out. Heat, drought, or dry, deep shade will kill them. They need acidic soil to thrive. They grow well with rhododendrons and other acid-loving shrubs or in bog and water gardens.
  • Most will self-sow easily. Most are herbaceous and form almost inconspicuous buds at the soil level in winter.
  • They benefit from a nutritious top dressing of mulch in winter.
  • Seeds have only a short period of viability.

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