Primula, the Latin name for the species-rich genus of primroses, means “the first”. In fact, the colorful primroses bloom together with snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils as the first flowers of the year. The colorful flowers can be seen in some species as early as the end of winter, when temperatures are still around freezing. However, this does not mean that the delicate spring bloomers are always hardy.

There are around 500 different species of the genus Primula worldwide, some of which are native to very different climatic zones and therefore have different winter hardiness levels. Most primroses come from the mountains of the earth in the northern hemisphere and are therefore naturally adapted to adverse living conditions and winter frost. These include, for example, the following varieties:

  • Cowslip (P. elatior): also common cowslip, native species with light yellow flowers
  • Cowslip (P. veris): native species with bright yellow flowers
  • Cowslip (P. vulgaris): also known as cushion primrose, native species with yellow flowers
  • Alpine Auricula (P. auricula): native species with bright yellow flowers
  • Haller’s primrose (P. halleri): native species with red-purple flowers
  • Mealy primrose (P. farinosa): native species with light purple flowers

The species listed are exclusively wild forms in Germany and Central Europe. These primroses also tolerate extreme frost. They can be planted out in the garden without any worries and do not require additional winter protection.


Many of the primroses that are so numerous on the market in spring are so-called garden primroses, which in turn are crosses of different (often native) species:

  • Cowslip hybrid (P. vulgaris)
  • Hybrid primroses: also hybrid auriculae, hybrids of auriculae (P. auricula) and hairy primrose (P. hirsuta)

Both hybrid forms have been bred for several hundred years and have produced countless, very hardy varieties. These are perfectly adapted to the local climate, as the parent species are native to Central Europe.

Other hardy primrose species

In addition to the native primroses listed, there are numerous species and hybrids that are native to other habitats or continents – around half of the known Primula species , for example, come from China. Many of these also belong to the hardy to conditionally hardy varieties:

  • Cowslip (P. beesiana)
  • Tiered primrose (P. japonica)
  • Kugel-Primel (P. denticulata)
  • Orchideenprimel (P. vialii)
  • Cowslip (P. rosea)
  • Teppichprimel (P. juliae)

These species can also be placed in the garden without hesitation.

Frostempfindliche Primeln

On the other hand, the popular cup primrose (P. obconica), which is native to the subtropical to tropical regions of China and Thailand and is therefore not naturally used to minus temperatures , is not hardy at all. During the summer months you can cultivate the species as a pot plant on the terrace or balcony, but as soon as the temperature falls below ten degrees Celsius, the flowering plant belongs in a warmer place in the house.

Frost protection during flowering

Even if most types of primrose are sufficiently hardy and thus tolerate even deep frosts well, this does not necessarily apply to the flowering period: the delicate flowers quickly freeze back at temperatures of less than minus five degrees – especially if they occur at night. With a protective cover – for which you can use newspaper, brushwood or even gardener’s fleece – you can protect the blossoms from frostbite.

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