Primula veris
Common Name: cowslip 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Primulaceae
Native Range: Europe to western Asia
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies


Best grown in deep, moist, humusy, organically rich soils in part shade. Tolerates close to full shade. May tolerate full sun in cool northern summers if soils are kept consistently moist. Plant foliage typically depreciates in the heat of hot summer climates. Grows well in mucky soils, but is generally intolerant of standing water. Protect from excess winter moisture. Spreads in the garden by self-seeding to form colonies. Propagate by division or seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Primula veris, commonly called cowslip, is a clump-forming, herbaceous (sometimes semi-evergreen) perennial of the primrose family that is noted for its early to mid-spring bloom of showy, nodding, lemon yellow flowers. It is native to temperate areas of Europe and Asia. It has been introduced and has naturalized in eastern North America from Quebec and Ontario south to Michigan, New York and Connecticut. It is a well-known hedgerow plant in Europe.

Crinkled, irregularly-toothed, oval to lance-shaped leaves with soft-hairy undersides form a basal rosette to 4” tall. Naked, upright flowering stems rise in April-May above the foliage to 6-8” tall, each stem being topped by a drooping many-flowered umbel of small, fragrant, funnel-shaped, yellow flowers (each 1/2 to 3/4” long). Seeds ripen in July-August.

The genus name Primula means "little earliest one" and is the feminine diminutive of the Latin primus.

Specific epithet means spring flowering.

Common name of cowslip may come from old English meaning cow dung in probable reference to the plant thriving in cow pastures. Cowslip may also simply be a reference to the moist slippery habitat where this plant often grows.


No serious insect or disease problems. Slugs, snails, aphids and red spider mites are sometimes seen. Botritis, gray mold, root rot, rust, powdery mildew and leaf spots may occur.


Bright spring flowers that grow well in part shade locations including border fronts, rock gardens, meadows, cottage gardens, open woodland gardens, under trees, along paths, along streams/ponds, and in boggy areas. May be an effective edger. Also may be grown in pots.