Orchid primrose – info, planting, care and tips

Orchid primrose (Primula vialii)
Orchid primrose (Primula vialii)

The orchid primrose surprises in summer with its colorful flower candles. Here you can learn how to plant and care for Primula vialii properly.

Profile of orchid primrose:

Scientific name: Primula vialii

Plant family: primrose family (Primulaceae)

Other names: Vial’s primrose

Sowing time: October to March

Planting time: spring to autumn

Flowering period: June to July

Location: partially shady

Soil quality: gravelly to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, flower meadows, group planting, pond planting, natural garden, rock garden, water garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 7 (-15 °C / +5 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of orchid primrose

Plant order, origin and occurrence of orchid primrose

The orchid primrose (Primula vialii), also known as Vial’s primrose, is a jewel from southwest China. It grows in the mountainous regions of northwest Yunnan and southwest Szechuan at altitudes between 2,800 and 3,900 meters. It belongs to the primrose family (Primulaceae).

Characteristics of orchid primrose


As with most primroses, the orchid primrose sprouts its conical inflorescence from a rosette of leaves. Depending on the location, the extravagant flower spike rises 30 to 60 centimeters (12 to 24 in) into the air. Unfortunately, the perennial is short-lived, but easy to grow from seed.


The green leaves of Vial’s primrose are broad-lanceolate with irregularly serrated margins.


The orchid primrose has given its name to the inflorescences of native orchids. Like the orchids, the densely occupied flower spike is conical in shape. But the play of colors of the orchid primrose is even more exotic: when it blooms, the flowers glow in a rosy lavender violet. The broad bell-shaped calyxes and bracts are fiery red. Since the up to 18 centimeter (7 in) long flowering candle blossoms from bottom to top, the two-colored flower is strikingly contrasting. The flower spectacle lasts from June to July.


The orchid primrose develops seed capsules.

Orchid primrose – cultivation and care


A partially shady location offers optimal conditions for Vial’s primrose. If one recalls the conditions at the natural site on humid meadows and among evergreen shrubs, one understands why the plant prefers cool places.


In the garden it is not always easy to imitate the walking shadow and the coolness of the mountains. This is best done on fresh, humusy soil. The sunnier the orchid primroses are, the wetter the soil should be. Especially during the growing season, the primrose species needs to be moist. In winter, however, it prefers to stand dry. In any case, you should ensure a permeable soil with as little lime as possible.

Planting orchid primrose

The ideal planting time for the orchid primrose is spring, but as a perennial it can also be planted in summer and late autumn. It is advantageous if the perennial is purchased on the Internet or in garden shops, then it will flower in the first year of planting. But also your own grown plants can be planted into the ground at any time, except on frosty days. However, the home-grown perennials often only flower in the second year after planting. For visual reasons, several perennials should always be planted together. If the Vial’s primrose are planted in a group of three to five plants, it looks more attractive, but of course the perennials can also be planted in two or three rows in a garden bed. Make sure that there is a distance of about 50 cm (20 in) between the plants. Otherwise, the following must be considered here:

  • The soil must not be frozen on the day of planting
  • the perennials look beautiful when they are planted in a group of about three to five plants
  • for this purpose, dig out the correspondingly large holes in the root
  • mix the excavated soil with compost
  • Water the roots of the orchid primrose well before inserting
  • Insert and re-insert the prepared soil and press well
  • give water again and do not let the soil dry out in the next time

Since the orchid primroses cannot tolerate waterlogging despite their large water requirement, a drainage system consisting of clay fragments, stones or gravel should be installed during planting, whether in a bed or in a tub, before the plants are placed in the soil.


The orchid primrose does not need much care. In the spring before budding, it should be provided with compost or slow release fertilizer from the shops. However, the perennial prefers damp soil and must therefore be protected from drying out. Therefore, it is important to pay special attention to this:

  • Never let the soil dry out
  • the orchid primrose does not forgive even a short dry phase and in the worst case dies
  • therefore water regularly, but avoid waterlogging
  • in hot summer, protect the soil from drying out too quickly with a layer of mulch
  • especially if the orchid primrose has been cultivated in a tub or balcony box, it can dry out faster
  • When watering, make sure that no waterlogging is created on the plate either
  • if necessary, empty the plate a few minutes after watering

Since the orchid primrose does not like calcareous soils, it should be watered with water from the rain barrel if possible. Tap water is often too calcareous.


A pruning of the orchid primroses close to the ground is not required. Only the flower stems must be cut after the flowers have faded. However, if you want to obtain seeds for a new sowing, you should collect the flowers from these flower stems and store them in a warm place. In addition, before winter, all dried or withered parts should be removed down to the ground.


Propagation by division in early spring is possible. More easily, orchid primroses can be propagated by sowing. Sow the fast germinating seeds between October and March in pots or bowls in potting compost and press the seeds only slightly. You can place the seed trays in a shady place outside. After germination, prick the plants. Only a few weeks later you can put the offspring in their final place in the garden.

  • prepare small boxes with potting compost
  • the seeds are put in there
  • Place boxes in a shady place and keep them well moist
  • in spring, the small plants formed in this way can be planted in the garden
  • usually it comes with the own sowings however only in the second planting year to a bloom

Diseases and pests

The orchid primrose is largely free of plant diseases. However, it should be protected from snails. And also the black vineweevil can leave its traces.


The orchid primroses ia hardy down to -15 °C / +5 °F and usually survive even a very hard and frosty winter without protection. However, if you want to be absolutely sure, or if the plants are in an open location without the protection of a house wall, fence or hedge, then they should be covered with a thick layer of leaves. Since the perennial prefers moisture, care must be taken to ensure that it does not dry out in winter when there is a black frost. When watering in winter, the following should therefore be observed:

  • water only on frost-free days
  • especially with plants that have not been covered with leaves, the soil dries out faster all around, even in winter
  • perennials covered with leaves store the water and do not need to be watered in winter

Make sure that this layer of leaves is removed early in the spring so that the orchid primrose can sprout again on the first warm days.

Use in the garden

Orchid primroses bring a touch of exoticism to areas along the banks of garden ponds and watercourses. They go well with herbaceous perennials in the humid zone. Where the ground is damp, they can even be integrated into natural rock gardens with ferns. On the fresh edge of a wood they form a precious box with other treasures such as liverwort (Hepatica) and hosta, but also look good in combination with columbines. Between rhododendrons, orchid primroses alternate with shooting star (Dodecatheon) and blue poppy (Meconopsis) for a splash of color.


There are the varieties ‘Red Hot Poker’ and ‘Miracle’.

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