In the Garden
Common Primrose (Primula vulgaris syn. P. acaulis)
*Also known as butter rose, English primrose, and key flower
Polyanthus Primrose (P. × polyantha)
*Also known as florists’ primrose
Crinkled green leaves form a rosette at the base of these plants. The six-petaled flowers grow in clusters that rise on stems about six inches from the base of the plant. The common primrose flower is pale yellow. The polyanthus primrose encompasses a group of hybrids with flower colors that can be blue, orange, pink, purple, white, or yellow.
The name primrose comes from the Latin prima rosa, meaning “first rose.” 34 Although they are not related to roses, these early-blooming flowers have a rose-like appearance. And despite the common name, these plants are not related to evening primrose (Oenothera biennis).
The name primrose is also a folk name for its cousin the English cowslip (P. veris). In the wild the primrose and cowslip hybridize producing the oxlip (P. elatior). The polyanthus primrose is a complex hybrid created from the common primrose, the English cowslip, and the oxlip.
For centuries the primrose has been regarded as a magical plant associated with fairies and other nature spirits. According to legends, dryads were said to pick these flowers during the dark of the new moon. In medieval times, primroses were used to flavor mead. In German folklore, the primrose was called key flower and believed to provide entrance to hillsides and caverns. In Norse folklore, Freya used this flower to unlock the seasonal gates of spring.
This plant is associated with lusty Beltane celebrations and fertility. Place a potted primrose on your altar to invoke the Goddess. The primrose and yellow flowers in general are used on May Day to strew across thresholds. Planting them by your front door or strewing the flower petals will invite the fairies to bless your home. Also planting them in the garden will attract fairies and other nature spirits to your property. Place a couple of flowers on your altar to aid in fairy magic. A sachet of dried flowers and leaves enhances dreams. In addition, carrying a primrose flower attracts love.
Primrose is associated with the elements air, earth, and fire. It is also associated with fairies and the goddesses Bertha and Freya. Its astrological influence comes from Venus.