Primula auricula is a small perennial that is easy to identify and simple to grow. Its light-colored foliage and original flowers will definitely find their spot in flower beds and along edges in your garden.
Primula auricula, a summary of key facts
Botanical name – Primula auricula
Common names – auricula, bear’s ear, cowslip, auricula primrose
Family – Primulaceae
Type – Perennial
Height – 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm)
Planting density – 20 to 25 plants per sq. yard (m²)
Exposure – sun to part shade
Soil – humus-rich, well drained, neutral to alkaline pH
Hardiness – hardy
Flowering – Spring
Foliage – evergreen
Getting to know Primula auricula
In the “auricula” group within the primrose family, you’ll find 3 main sub-groups: moutain or alpine auricula, showroom auricula, and garden or flower bed auricula.
Primula auricula is in this last “garden flower” category. Some of its characteristics are that it is hardy and resilient, and pretty easy to grow when the environment suits it well enough.
Flowers are flat and grouped into umbels that rise up above the foliage at the tip of a long floral scape. Each flower has a white spot – its “eye” – exactly in its center. Some varieties exhibit one or the other color along the rim: it may be green, gray or white. This lining outlines the outer part of the flower, and usually strikes a nice contrast with the darker tones of the rest of the flower.
The foliage is oval-shaped, and the color ranges from pale green to gray-green. Leaves seem coated with a powdery substance called farina. This is actually part of the plant itself, and it isn’t a disease (even though it looks similar to powdery mildew).
Planting Primula auricula
For your auricula to be simple to care for later on, it helps to prepare growing environment to help the plant reveal its full potential:
- light soil (even sandy), with lots of humus and excellent drainage;
- a sun or part shade location;
- slightly alkaline soil pH (if possible).
Time your planting preferably at the beginning of Fall. This season ensures that Primula auricula roots have time to develop and mature during months that have lots of water, so that they’re ready by the time drier Summer times come around. Nonetheless, you can still plant your flowers in Spring, but then you’ll have to keep a lookout for signs of dehydration to give them water accordingly.
When you’ve chosen the perfect spot for it, simply follow these few steps:
- Amend the soil with extra sand, soil mix and/or ripe, mature compost.
- Work the soil to a nice, crumbly texture with a spading fork or a grelinette (broadfork), to make sure your amendments well mixed into the ground.
- Dig holes about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) deep.
- Add, again, a handful of organic matter, either soil mix or compost.
- Tease each Primula auricula specimen out of its pot, and gently break the clump up to release the roots from their tight nursery pots.
- Settle the plants in the holes, backfill, and press the soil down around the stems.
- Water immediately.
- To keep the soil nice and cool, feel free to spread a layer of mulch. This will also help stave off weed growth, and in the case of plant-based mulch, it’ll even feed the soil as it breaks down.
Caring for the Auricula primrose
Once it has settled in properly, your Primula auricula will come along fine without any help from your part. The difficult balance to strike is the fact of having soil that both drains very well, and nonetheless stays cool in hot weather. That’s why you’ll have to pay particular attention to watering when ever it doesn’t rain for a long time. When you water, don’t get the leaves wet.
You’ll only have to trim it to eliminate wilted flowers and damaged or dead leaves. Increase the thickness of your mulch every year to compensate for the fact that it slowly breaks down.
Multiplying and propagation
Bear’s ear propagation only needs a few steps: divide the clump or dig out a few offshoots that pop out at the foot of the stem.
Whichever technique you prefer, make sure you do this in Autumn to help the fledgling new plants grow strong root systems over Winter.
Diseases and pests
The single most common disease to affect Primula auricula is gray mold (botrytis).
Landscaping and pairing
Auricula primrose is perfect to line edges of flower beds, up front as a first line of color. Pair it together with Aubrieta, navelwort, Saxifraga arendsii, or, why not, one or two specimens of bishop’s hat.
There’s great fun to be had with the foliage, too, pairing the leafage of Primula auricula together with that of contrasting darker-leaved plants such as Ophiopogon planiscapsus ‘Nigrescens’ for instance.
Smart tip about Primula auricula
Many varieties are extremely hardy, these make for excellent choices for potted compositions that you can’t winterize very well because they’re too large or in a showy place.
Primula auricula in the mountains by LittleThought under Pixabay license
Rimmed with white by Primrose under Pixabay license
Carpet of Auricula flowers by Nick Fullerton under © CC BY 2.0
Auricula theater by tpholland under © CC BY 2.0
Close-up of an auricula flower by Matti & Megan under © CC BY 2.0