Auricula (Primula auricula) are pretty alpine flowers related to our native primrose. Plant breeders have been raising and naming auriculas for centuries and they come in a range of delectable colours and flower shapes. Find how how to grow auriculas for showy and beautiful garden plants.
Are auriculas easy to grow?
Some auriculas are much easier to grow than others. The trickiest usually have a dusty, silvery coating on the leaves and flowers (called farina). Other toughies, 'Old Yellow Dusty Miller' for example, have been around for centuries and can even survive in the border.
Always go to a specialist nursery, such as Woottens of Wenhaston. They will offer advice about individual varieties and can sell you a selection of named plants to suit your abilities. In contrast garden centres usually offer inferior, seed-raised auriculas.
As a general rule purple, mauve and yellow-toned varieties are often more vigorous and easier to keep going.
Growing auriculas from seed
Auricula seeds are available but results can vary and be inferior to named varieties, so auriculas are usually propagated by division. If you do decide to grow from seed the seeds should sown in a tray in late January or early February. Once the seed is germinated cover with a thin layer of vermiculite and transplant into larger container once leaves appear.
Where to plant auriculas
Auriculas are demanding rather than difficult because they need alpine conditions and only do well if placed somewhere cool and airy away from midday sun.
Like many alpines, auriculas need a careful watering regime. This is why most are grown in pots rather than in the bare ground. The water needs to drain away, as it would on a mountain slope, and many gardeners surround their auricula plants with horticultural grit to improve drainage further. Always remove the saucer when watering as auriculas suffer if left standing in water.
Auricula theatres (stepped shelves) are popular with gardeners as they mimic the conditions of alpine slopes.
Find out how to make an alpine scree garden
Caring for auriculas
Keep auriculas cool and on the dry side - especially from October until February and in very hot summer weather. This will prevent fungal disease and root rot.
Read our guide to helping alpines survive the winter
When to divide auriculas
These spring-flowering plants can stay in the same pot until they produce four or five offsets. Then they can be divided after flowering.
How to divide auriculas
Tweeze the pieces apart with your fingers and repot using a 50% mixture of John Innes no 2 and horticultural grit if using plastic pots. However clay pots dry out more in summer and plants need a moister mix comprising one part grit to three parts compost.
Tug your potted plants regularly to make sure that vine weevil are not about. An affected plant will come away in your hand. Either discard it by binning it (and not composting it) or wash the surviving parts in water. Re-pot and discard the infested roots. Check the potted pieces regularly.
Selecting auricula varieties
All varieties supplied by Woottens of Wenhaston. Good auricula varieties do sell out fast so order early.
Auriculas with showy, lightly-scented auriculas with fancy edges often in green, grey and white
'Old England' - lightly fragrant, red flowers edged with green edges.
'Spring Meadow' single yellow flowers with a green edge.
'Coffee' - brown flowers with fancy grey edges.
Auriculas with pristine flowers with evenly coloured petals with no edge to them
'Cortina' - dark-red flowers with white middle and yellow throat.
'Purple Sage' -purple flowers with a clean white middle.
'Sailor Boy' - a handsome blue self with - one of the easier blue varieties.
Auriculas with striped petals with a harlequin effect
'Dan Tiger' - green and red striped flowers.
'Orwell Tiger' - green petals striped in dark-red.
'Lord Saye and Sele' - yellow flowers with green and reddish brown stripes.
Thickly edged petals in green, grey or white - generally challenging to grow.
'Beechen Green' - green-edged maroon petals with a dusty coating.
'Rosalie Edwards' - a grey-edged flower with a clean maroon ring surrounding a large white centre.
'Silver Way' - a grey-white edge which gives way to maroon - a good starting point.
Auriculas with long-lasting flowers in rosebud formation
'Crimson Glow' - tomato-red vigorous double.
'Golden Splendour' - brown butterscotch and pale leaves.
'Nymph' - double clotted-cream flowers.
Resilient good doers
'Dales Red' - blood-red flowers with a white eye.
'Winifred' - yellow-centred warm-brown - easy.
'Lucy Locket' - pale- yellow flowers and mealy silver foliage.
Read more gardening guides, including how to grow alpines in troughs and containers