The evening primrose is a wildflower cultivated for garden and landscaping uses. It gets its name from the fact that the flowers open up in the late afternoon, stay open through the night and then close the following morning. Evening primrose comes in different colors and species in the wild and as cultivars. The plant is part of the primrose family that also includes fireweed and nightshade.
The common evening primrose exists in every state with the exception of some Rocky Mountain states. It grows across all of southern Canada, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This plant frequently starts well in new landscapes, typically in freshly disturbed soil, but has a habit of not surviving, and also grows in sandy or rocky types of soil. In the wild, primrose grows near waterways, in open woods and on rocky plains.
The flowers of common evening primrose are yellow and in bloom from July to September throughout most of the plant's range. The plant is a biennial, growing its leaves in the first year and then its flowers during the second. Common evening primrose can grow as tall as 6 feet, and the stem contains many leaves and hairs. The flowers exist on the upper portion of the stem and take turns opening as the summer passes.
Plant evening primrose in the sun or in partial shade. This plant has medium needs in terms of water. A species called pink evening primrose, which is not as tall and features pink flowers, grows in full sun and in poor soils. Evening primrose will not survive if the ground is too damp continuously, as the plant will develop root rot. Grow evening primroses from seeds, indoors in containers or outdoors in wildflower gardens.
The pink evening primrose has cultivars with appealing features. The type named Pink Petticoat has a pleasant aroma that will come to you on the evening breeze from your garden. Another hybrid called Woodside White has white flowers as its name implies, but with green middles, and grows low to the ground. Another called Rosea has pink blooms throughout the summer.
Moths will pollinate evening primroses and birds, with hummingbirds among them, and visit evening primrose for nectar and seeds. The roots and leaves provide food for animals such as deer, and the plant is said to have medicinal value as well. Tea made from the plant by Native Americans helped alleviate bowel pains, for example.