The primrose is a plant that you have probably spotted many times in old canals, near railroads and in abandoned lots. They thrive with very little care and can sprout on dry, gravelly soils as well as in moist environments. The leaves and flowers are used in foods and medicinally, and if you plan to grow one on your own, understanding the characteristics is key.
If grown in proper conditions and completely unrestrained by spacing or other plants, the evening primrose plant can reach up to 5 feet tall. However, its cousins -- such as the English, German and Chinese primrose -- are generally grown indoors as ornamental plants and usually only reach about 12 inches tall. The height will depend on the species you choose, since some are inclined to grow larger than others. Each leaf can grow up to 6 inches long and 3 inches in diameter, and they give off a lemony scent.
Achieving Full Height
To allow your primrose to grow to its full potential, you need to give it space. The larger the space in which you plant the primrose, the more room the roots will have to spread out and, therefore, the taller the plant can grow. This is why house-grown primroses will generally be smaller than the outdoor ones, as they are constricted by their pots. Evening primrose will thrive to its optimal height in full sunlight, which means it receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. However, the other species of primrose can be easily burned by sunlight and so should receive only filtered light throughout the day.
The various primrose species also have different uses. Evening primrose leaves and flowers are edible and are often mixed in with salad greens or cooked for an extra burst of flavor and spice in a meal. Evening primrose also produces a fatty acid that the body does not make on its own, so the herb is used to treat heart disease, arthritis, menstruation problems and high blood pressure. On the other hand, German primrose is poisonous, which is one reason it is commonly grown indoors -- so animals don’t eat it and get sick. It will cause serious skin irritation and can cause illness if ingested.
Make sure you know what kind of primrose you are getting before you start trying to help them reach their optimal height and beauty. The different species of primrose require different kinds of care, and you don’t want to end up with German primrose in your salad. If you are unsure of what you have, contact a professional at a garden center or nursery for help in caring for or using your primrose.
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