Darrell Blackwelder: Pink primrose is a biennial that blooms early

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2023

Driving through East Spencer the other day I noticed a profusely pink flowering pink plant on the side of the road that closely resembled pink flowering petunias. Further up the street the flowers appeared again but in solid white. These weren’t petunias but a pink primrose, a biennial plant in the Onagraceae family. These heirlooms are also referred to as Mexican evening primrose, pink buttercups and pinkladies.

Biennials require two years to complete their life cycle. This type plant includes Sweet William, foxglove and hollyhock. These flowering plants bloom either be day or evening. Generally, these biennial plants normally bloom in the evening but these local plants were showing their blooms mid-day. Pink primrose plants are drought resistant and will grow in most any soil type. They will also grow in shaded locations but need full sun for maximum bloom. The biennial plants reseed and become naturalized in perennial flower gardens.

Pink primrose has been generally considered a naturalized plant but now you can buy them locally at garden centers. These bloom very early and are available in early spring.

It is important not to confuse pink primrose with the cutleaf evening primrose (Oenothera laciniata). Although the cutleaf evening primrose has a beautiful small yellow flower, it is more invasive, generally found in lawns and landscapes and is considered a weed. Go to https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/cutleaf-evening-primrose and https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/oenothera-speciosa/ for more detailed information on both types of primrose.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.