Wednesday, 27 July 2016

How to: Cut back Primroses in summer

A simple task, but a surprising number of people are unsure how to deal with their spring flowered primroses now that we are in mid-summer (says she, with wry face, looking at the rain streaming down the window pane).

The answer is simply to chop them right back!

Here is a typical small group of Primrose plants:

 the leaves are yellowed, limp and floppy, and they look rather a mess.

If you get down on hands and knees and look closely, though, you will see that new, fresh green leaves are already starting to push through, but of course they are completely covered by the wilting foliage,

So, what to do?

The procedure is remarkably similar to that in my earlier article about Cutting Back Aquilegia: you can either spend a lot of time carefully snipping off the dead leaves individually, or you can take hold of the entire clump and sever them at just an inch or so above ground level.

Here's one I did earlier, as they say: more accurately, here is the same clump two minutes later.

The actual process is to ruffle through the foliage to work out where each plant is, then round up all the leaves in one hand, pulling them upright: then with the other hand, swoop across with the secateurs and chop the lot.

Yes, there is a risk that you will chop off a couple of quite nice new leaves, but they will soon regrow, especially if you water the plants afterwards : even if it looks like rain, a good drenching will help them get growing, and many primroses are growing in quite shaded locations: this little group are sheltered by a dry-stone wall, and are underneath a plum tree, so they won't get much "natural" watering unless it really pours.

Having chopped off the leaves, I then use my faithful Daisy Grubber to gently rake through the stumps to pull out any dead matter,  then to fluff up the earth around the plants (which breaks any surface pan, allowing your watering to have the best effect instead of running off and into the lawn) and tidy up the newly-revealed edge of the grass.

It all takes just a couple of minutes, but the result is quite impressive: and in a week or two, when the new leaves spring up, it will look great! 

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  1. do you cut back primrose in the fall, I'm a zone 4 and get a lot of snow

    1. Hi Chris, I'm in the UK so your 'zones' don't mean anything.

      But as a general observation, once the foliage is brown and horrible to look at, it's time to chop it off.

      Sorry I can't be more helpful!


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