Primroses & Pansies


Primroses (Primula spp.) and pansies (Viola spp.) are both popular bedding plants. Home gardeners use these plants to add seasonal color to their gardens. In temperate climates, primroses and pansies are perennials, but even then they are usually short-lived. Most live for just one or two seasons. For that reason, both flowers are often sold as annuals. Pansies and primroses come in a wide range of colors and sizes.


Primroses are from the Primulaceae genus. Their common name is taken from "prima," according to Iowa State University, which is Latin for "first." This is very appropriate, as primroses are often the first flower to bloom in the spring. Primroses were also used traditionally to signify a "first" love. The name "pansy" comes from the French word "pensee," which means "a thought." The French verb "penser" also means "to think." For this reason, there is a traditional belief that giving someone pansies means that you are thinking of them.


Primroses and pansies pair well in the outdoor garden because they have the same care needs, according to Iowa State University. Both plants need cool, moist soil to thrive, and both need shaded protection from the hot afternoon sun. Plant these flowers in full shade if you live in a climate that has hot, sunny summer weather. In cooler climates, they can be planted where they receive morning sunlight and afternoon shade. Mulch around the plants to help the soil retain moisture. Primroses cultivated indoors should be placed in a cool location that is exposed to bright light. Keep the soil moist, and make sure the plant is not exposed to hot drafts, such as those from a heating vent.


Primroses are a favorite food for rabbits, according to Iowa State University. They can also suffer and quickly die during hot, dry weather if they are not kept sufficiently irrigated. Pansies, like primroses, do not usually suffer from insect pests, but they, too, are a favorite food for rabbit and deer. Try sprinkling blood meal around your primroses and pansies to deter these mammals from munching on your flowers.


Primula X polyantha is the largest and most common group of primroses sold in the U.S., according to Iowa State University. These come in a rainbow of colors, including pastels, a true blue and a bright red, and feature very round, symmetrical flowers. P. chungensis features fragrant, red, tube-shaped flowers that have bright orange petals. These distinctive primroses have leaves that grow in a whorl shape. There are so many different types of pansies that they are usually grouped into classes. Two favorites are the "Majestic Giants" and the "Crystal Bowl" pansies. The "Majestic Giants" have large, colorful blooms with a dark "blotch" in the middle of the flower. These are the traditional, "monkey-face" pansies. "Crystal Bowl" pansies feature smaller blooms in solid colors. These pansies are known for their prolific blooming and come in shades of white, yellow, blue, pink, purple and orange.


Both plants have somewhat low profiles and are often used to edge borders, to add color under spring bulb flowers or to fill in spaces in containers. Pansies can be used in hanging baskets, although they do not really have a trailing habit. Pansies are also edible, according to the University of Arkansas, and can be sprinkled on salads or floated on soups. Primroses can be cultivated indoors as blooming houseplants.

Keywords: primroses and pansies, about bedding plants, growing primroses pansies

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.