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How to Grow Cowslip

By: Marisa Reyes
Cowslip (Primula veris) is a beautiful early-spring flower for shade. Learn how to grow it here!

Primula in the garden: Cowslip's yellow, bell-shaped flowers are attractive in a border and pollinators love them.

Cowslip

Primula veris

When you encounter the lightly fragrant, bell-shaped, lemon-yellow blooms of cowslip, it’s like witnessing the first sunlit dance of spring. Cowslip’s flowers create a radiant spectacle from April to May, bringing in a symphony of bees and butterflies humming their appreciation for the early spring nectar.

Type Perennial
Blooms Clusters of fragrant, yellow bell-shaped flowers from early to midspring.
Light Part shade
Soil Moist, well-drained
Pests None serious
Size 6 to 12 in. tall, 12 to 16 in. wide
Cold hardy USDA zones 3 to 8

Grow cowslip for early-spring flowers

Cowslip naturally graces meadows and open woodland settings. It grows best in part shade, where it can be placed under the canopy of taller trees and shrubs while being shielded from the harsh afternoon sun. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, but it’s intolerant of standing water, which can cause root rot. When planting cowslip, set it so the crown is slightly above the soil line to avoid potential rot issues. A 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch keeps plants evenly moist and weeds at bay. Grow it along a garden path or next to a stream in semi shaded pockets where you can admire its blooms up close.

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Tips for growing cowslip

Unlike some of its primrose relatives, cowslip is self-sufficient and requires little maintenance. However, its flowers are sensitive to sudden frost, so keep your eye on early spring temperatures and cover blooming plants with a protective cloth when temperatures drop below 32 degrees F.

After flowers have faded, cut the stalks back to encourage a second, albeit smaller, set of blooms. Fertilize in spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Cowslip spreads by self-seeding. Thin out crowded clusters of plants to promote airflow, especially in shadier garden spots, where plants may be more susceptible to powdery mildew. Divide every 3 to 4 years in spring to rejuvenate the plant.

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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editors choice issue 175 january february 2024 part shade perennials shade

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