How to Separate Primula Plants


Many gardeners adore the early spring blossoms of Primula, including primrose, cowslip and oxlip. The fuzzy, bright green foliage and delicate, brightly colored flowers--grown in gardens, containers or beds--provide low-maintenance bursts of color and inspiration to gardeners around the world. Although seed or stem cuttings can propagate these flowers, separating Primula plants provides the simplest way to grow your collection of these delicate blooms.

Step 1

Allow existing primula plants to reach full bloom for the season. Remove spent blooms, and choose the healthiest specimens for separation. Stems and leaves should be free of blemishes, disease or insect damage.

Step 2

Prepare a new site for the newly divided primula. Dig a hole, 6 to 8 inches deep, and work compost into the soil to provide a nutrient-rich base for the new plant.

Step 3

Follow the drip line of the foliage to determine where to start digging. The drip line is the mark in surrounding soil where water runs off of existing foliage. Use the spade to mark a line, 1 to 2 inches outside the drip line, around the circumference of the plant.

Step 4

Start at the marked line and dig straight down, submerging the entire spade. Pull back to reach down and under the root clump. Lift the spade out of the soil, and repeat this process several times around the circumference of the plant until you can lift the plant without resistance.

Step 5

Lift the primula plant from the ground, using the spade. If you must lift with the foliage, hold the flowers at the base of the stems with one hand and grab the root ball with the other hand. Gently shake away excess soil.

Step 6

Separate the root ball into two clumps by gently pulling apart the roots until you have two separate pieces. Transfer one of the clumps to the new site, and pack soil around it up to the base of the stems. Water the new site completely to allow the plant to settle into its new home.

Step 7

Add some compost to the original planting location, working it into the soil completely. Replace the second clump, pack soil around base, and water completely.

Tips and Warnings

  • Cutting the primula root ball can damage leaves and stems and makes each divided plant susceptible to disease. Replant divided flowers immediately, or place in a temporary container with potting soil until ready for transplant. Uprooted primula plants cannot tolerate extended time away from their planting site.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Compost
  • Mulch


  • Washington State University Extension: Propagating Perennials
  • Fine Gardening: 10 Tips on Dividing Perennial Plants

Who Can Help

  • Primula-Primrose
Keywords: propagation by division, primula flowers, fibrous root system

About this Author

Deborah Waltenburg has been a freelance writer since 2002. In addition to her work for Demand Studios, Waltenburg has written for websites such as Freelance Writerville and Constant Content, and has worked as a ghostwriter for travel/tourism websites and numerous financial/debt reduction blogs.