Primula denticulata Alba

Gardeners rarely go a-wandering without bringing back a plant that they haven’t been able to find at home. The Corning trip resulted in two new additions to our gardens. Mary Jo was delighted to find two varieties of hardy anemones that she has been reading about. The other discovery was a white drumstick primrose that is now snugly plated in may shade garden.


‘Alba’ is the white form of a species that is more familiar in the purple and pink forms. Not that this plant is at all common in the US. Most of the information available on culture comes from UK sources. The plant is native to the alpine regions ranging from Afghanistan to China. They thrive in a woodland setting or in pockets of humusy, acidic soil in rock gardens. They like moist but well {mospagebreak}drained conditions although denticulata is reported to be able to survive boggy soils. In excessively dry or hot conditions drumstick primroses tend to go dormant. They will take full sun if kept very moist otherwise semi-shade conditions are preferable.

The species denticulata being of Himalayan extraction is very hardy reportedly hardy to zone 2 or 3.  It should have no problem surviving the coldest of zone 5 winters providing the drainage is good. A winter mulch is advisable. Blooms form early in March and April in accordance with the genus name Primula, which pays tribute to the fact that these charmers are some of the first flowers to greet the spring. The flowers are born on 8-10 inch stalks that rise from rosettes of sharply toothed, spatulate leaves that may just be forming as the plant blooms. The flowers are spheres of funnel shaped flowers, in the case of ‘Alba’ white with a yellow center. The plant will continue to bloom over a long period if sheltered from spring frosts.

The ideal way to propagate the plant is by division. Seed germination is erratic and must be conducted at low temperatures, 60 to 65 degrees. Since these temperatures are often impossible to maintain for the amateur grower sowing outdoors in early spring or fall is suggested. This can be done either in the ground, in cold frames or in pots placed in a shady location. Pots should be covered with a plastic bag or a piece of glass to keep them moist. The plants may be moved to their permanent home in the fall or over wintered in a cold frame. Denticulata is said to be easier to grow from seed than some of the other primroses and can self seed.