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How to Care for a Polyanthus Plant

Lovely garden of multicolored polyanthus flowers

Genus Polyanthus

Gardeners sometimes get confused about the polyanthus plant. These flowering plants have a very similar in appearance to a primrose, and though they are not the same plant, they are part of the same botanical family: primula!

Polyanthus plants are a type of primula with very similar flowers, but primrose plants have much shorter stems, whereas polyanthus plants have longer stems (make them a great cut flower specimen). They were bred as a complex hybrid with wild primrose species and look a lot like pansies.

These cottage garden classics are known for being a hardy perennial and having wonderfully brightly colored flower blossoms that are the first to brighten up your garden after the long and cold winter. They bloom for weeks on end and are wonderfully winter hardy!

Learn all about polyanthus care and all of the different applications you can use them in. They are perfect for window boxes, patio containers, rock gardens, along borders, as bedding plants and they are great for wetter areas like along streams and ponds!

What do Polyanthus Plant Look Like?

Gorgeous bright pink polyanthus flowers growing in the sunshine

Growth Habit

Polyanthus plants are very simply shaped plants that are comprised of a basal rosette of low growing leaves, from which emerge long and elegant flowering stems that are usually around 10-12 inches in height.

Polyanthus plants are usually planted as hardy perennials that can easily last through a tough winter, but they can also be treated as annuals as they are that fast growing.

Leaves

Many species of polyanthus are evergreen to semi evergreen, meaning that the foliage will often remain green and persist all year long if their ideal growing conditions are maintained.

A polyanthus leaf is usually ovular in shape with deep veins. They are more bright green than they are dark green and some species will have edges that are serrated, smooth, and sometimes even a different color!

Flowers

Polyanthus flowers are very simple in shape. They are comprised of 5 flower petals that slightly overlap. They are usually borne in umbels but will sometimes be borne singularly as an individual flower at the end of a long flowering stem.

As we mentioned earlier, polyanthus flowers differ from primrose flowers in that polyanthus flowers will grow much higher up, and primrose flowers will grow closer to the ground.

Gardeners love polyanthus flower beds as an early spring perennial. They will often be one of your first perennials to bloom and their blooming season lasts for quite a few weeks (sometimes they’ll even bloom in the late winter). They come in a bright blaze of colors in basically every shade imaginable.

What are some Notable Types of Polyanthus?

Gorgeous blooming polyanthus in the garden

Gold Laced Polyanthus (Polyanthus Primrose)

The gold laced polyanthus is one of the most highly coveted of the primroses. The gold laced polyanthus group is a semi evergreen to evergreen species that are amazing for edges, containers, and in flower beds.

This variety can be identified by its basal rosette of oval shaped leaves that are bright green and sometimes have a tinge of red to them. Beautiful yellow flowers with golden centres and shimmering edges bloom in the mid spring to late spring and last for many weeks.

Cowslip (Primula Veris)

The cowslip is a herbaceous perennial variety that in native to the temperate regions of Europe and western Asia. Their odd name “cowslip” comes from an Olde English term for cow dung, as these plants can be found growing wild near those mounds.

Primula veris can be identified by its broad and tall rosette of leaves that are evergreen in nature. P veris also bears gorgeous, deep yellow flowers that bloom in the early spring and last over a month.

Common Primrose (Primula Vulgaris)

The common primrose is also known as the English primrose, and this is a species that is native to the western parts of Europe and Northwest Africa.

Primula vulgaris can be identified by its basal rosette of evergreen, wrinkled leaves. P vulgaris bears pale yellow flowers that bloom in the late spring, but when growing wild they will sometimes have white or pink flowers too!

Where are Polyanthus’ Native Plants?

Wild polyanthus flowers of magenta growing in a big field

Another great thing about polyanthus plants is their ability to grow in almost any type of habitat. This makes it superbly easy for gardeners to keep them happy outside of their native growing range, since they are so adaptable and easy to care for.

Polyanthus plants are native to the more temperate regions within the northern hemisphere. They grow with prosperity all over eastern Asia, western Europe, northern Africa, and western North America. Nearly half of all of the 400 species are native plants to the Himalayas.

When growing wild, they can be found growing in many different humid and moderate temperature climates. They will grow happily along forest edges, in plains and meadows, as well as in tundras and alpine regions as well.

A polyanthus can be cultivated nearly all over the world, and they can be grown outdoors all year long in USDA zones 4 through 8. They should be kept in containers and brought indoors in all other regions during the harsh winter.

What are the Ideal Growing Conditions for Polyanthus Plants?

We’ve got all of the basic information down, so it’s finally time for you to learn about how to care for a polyanthus plant of your very own! This is a plant that can easily be incorporated into your regular gardening routine. Here are some crucial conditions that you should maintain for you plant:

Amazing looking green polyanthus flower blossoms

Soil Type

Polyanthus plants are able to grow in all sorts of different soil types in the wild, but there are some features that it can have to keep your plant as happy and healthy as possible.

Polyanthus plants will reward you with glorious blooms if you are able to provide it with well draining, rich, and fertile soil. They also love humus rich soil.

A great way to accomplish all of these things is by incorporating compost to your soil mix at the beginning of the growing season. This will not only increase the nutrient content of the soil, but it will help improve drainage as well!

Water Level

One thing that will require a little bit of maintenance is watering your polyanthus plant. They prefer to live in consistently moist soil, and they will provide your garden with long lasting blooms if they are given that!

Unless there is consistent rain during a season, a polyanthus plant should be watered one or two times a week to maintain soil moisture. Dip your finger in the soil before watering to make sure you aren’t over watering your plant.

Sun Exposure

Polyanthus plants are pretty relaxed when it comes to the amount of sun exposure that they receive within a day. Some species prefer all day direct sunlight, whereas others prefer bright shade or partial shade.

That being said, more often than not, polyanthus plants tend to exhibit a far more enthusiastic set of flower blossoms if they are given all day direct sunlight.

Lovely small polyanthus plant blooming with pale yelllow flowers

Temperature

Polyanthus plants are beloved by northern gardeners because of their cold hardy nature and their ability to withstand tough winters. Though they are able to tolerate cold temperatures, they absolutely perform best when things linger between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer

If you give your polyanthus plant a regular dosing of fertilizer, they will be virtually indestructible. Provide them either with some compost, or some pelletized fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season and again once a month for the remainder of the season.

It’s also a great idea to add some mulch around the top soil of your plant. This will eventually decompose and be used for nutrients as organic matter, and it will also help maintain soil moisture and it acts as weed control as well!

Pruning

The only pruning that will need to occur with your polyanthus plant will be in the form of deadheading the spent flowers. This will improve the overall look of the plant, can sometimes result in a second blooming period, and will help your plant sprout back into action the following spring as well.

How do you Propagate a Polyanthus Plant?

Young bright orange polyanthus plant growing in soil with amazing orange flowers

And now for the final step: polyanthus propagation! Now that you have all of the necessary plant care information, you’re ready to learn how to incorporate one of your very own onto your property.

Since the seed of a polyanthus plant is extremely tiny and germination can be super inconsistent, gardeners will usually introduce a specimen through transplanting an already established seedling that you can purchase from a garden centre. Here are the simple steps to accomplish this:

1. Wait to plant your new garden specimens in mid September to early October. Planting at this time of the season lets them get established, and they will survive the winter and absolutely explode come early spring.

2. Dig holes for your polyanthus plants that are only slightly bigger than the root ball itself. Each hole should be about 4 inches apart from one another to have a nice compact effect.

3. Once you fill in the hole and tamp down the soil, water your plant super well. Soil moisture should be maintained as they are getting established.

All sorts of polyanthus varieties growing in pots at a garden centre

Happy planting!

FAQs

Are polyanthus plants deer resistant?

Polyanthus plants are known as being moderately deer resistant. This means that they are not the first choice of snack for larger pests like deer, squirrels, and rabbits, but they certainly aren’t the last!

Are polyanthus plants perennials or annuals?

Many polyanthus species are perennials, meaning that they will continue to blossom year after year, but they can also be grown as annuals.

Is polyanthus frost hardy?

Polyanthus is a super frost hardy plant and it can easily withstand frost and harsh winter temperatures.

Can polyanthus plants grow in shade?

Polyanthus plants are pretty relaxed when it comes to the amount of sun exposure that they receive within a day. Some species prefer all day direct sunlight, whereas others prefer bright shade or partial shade.

That being said, more often than not, polyanthus plants tend to exhibit a far more enthusiastic set of flower blossoms if they are given all day direct sunlight.

Should polyanthus plants be divided?

A polyanthus plant should be divided every 2 or 3 years, and this is best done in the summer or fall. Dividing your plants will allow the plant to continue with healthy growth and allow it more space!

How are polyanthus plants used?

Gardeners tend to love polyanthus plants because they can be used in so many different garden applications. They’re great for planting at the base of shrubs, they’re perfect potted plants, they are lovely in a hanging basket, glorious in patio containers, as bedding plants, and along borders as well.

Can you grow polyanthus indoors?

Polyanthus plants can easily be grow indoors as potted plants as long as those pots have plenty of drainage holes in them, and the pots are placed in an area that receives plenty of sunlight exposure.

Can polyanthus plants be grown from seed?

Though a polyanthus plant can be grown from seed, their germination rate can be low and they are difficult to sow. This is why gardeners will often incorporate one into their garden by transplanting one they purchased from a garden centre.

What is the difference between primrose and polyanthus?

Polyanthus plants are a type of primula with very similar flowers, but primrose plants have much shorter stems, whereas polyanthus plants have longer stems (make them a great cut flower specimen). They were bred as a complex hybrid with wild primrose species and look a lot like pansies.

These cottage garden classics are known for being a hardy perennial and having wonderfully brightly colored flower blossoms that are the first to brighten up your garden after the long and cold winter. They bloom for weeks on end and are wonderfully winter hardy!

What time of year do polyanthus flowers bloom?

Gardeners love polyanthus flower beds as an early spring perennial. They will often be one of your first perennials to bloom and their blooming season lasts for quite a few weeks (sometimes they’ll even bloom in the late winter). They come in a bright blaze of colors in basically every shade imaginable.

How tall do polyanthus plants grow?

Polyanthus plants are usually rather low growing and will grow anywhere up to 12 inches in height.

What colour is a polyanthus flower?

Polyanthus flowers will come in basically any colour under the sun.

Are polyanthus plants drought tolerant?

Polyanthus plants are not very drought tolerant and prefer to live in moist soil.

Should a polyanthus plant be deadheaded?

The only pruning that will need to occur with your polyanthus plant will be in the form of deadheading the spent flowers. This will improve the overall look of the plant, can sometimes result in a second blooming period, and will help your plant sprout back into action the following spring as well.

What USDA zones can a polyanthus plant live in?

A polyanthus can be cultivated nearly all over the world, and they can be grown outdoors all year long in USDA zones 4 through 8. They should be kept in containers and brought indoors in all other regions during the harsh winter.

What is the ideal soil type for a polyanthus plant?

Polyanthus plants are able to grow in all sorts of different soil types in the wild, but there are some features that it can have to keep your plant as happy and healthy as possible.

Polyanthus plants will reward you with glorious blooms if you are able to provide it with well draining, rich, and fertile soil. They also love humus rich soil.

A great way to accomplish all of these things is by incorporating compost to your soil mix at the beginning of the growing season. This will not only increase the nutrient content of the soil, but it will help improve drainage as well!

What time of year should polyanthus be planted?

The best time of year to plant polyanthus is the summer or fall (sometimes late winter if you live in warmer regions) so that they can get established over the winter and be reading for spring explosion.