Poker Primrose Primula vialii has spikes of red calyces with blue-violet flowers opening from the bottom and working up. Many times each spike will have over 100 flowers densely packed on the stem. It blooms in June and July.
The leaves are deciduous, lance-shaped, hairy and form a rosette. The clump is late appearing in May so mark their location.
Plant in partial shade in moist, humus rich, well drained soil that’s neutral to acidic soil. It’s suggested the plant be side dressed with compost or top dress with leaf mold and add a complete organic fertilizer in the spring.
Seeds may be planted in early spring when the temperature is consistently 68 degrees. Don’t cover seeds. If planted from seed, they will bloom their second year. The leaves go dormant for seven months of the year so it’s suggested it be planted under shrubs or evergreen. They are considered “short lived perennials” meaning if you want them in your beds every year, then plant more seeds every year.
The perennial plant originated in China.
The plant’s height is 12-18 inches. It’s cold hardy to Zone 5 although I'd consider them somewhat fragile.
As the name indicates, Primula vialii is in the Primrose family but easily distinguished from other primroses.
They are sometimes confused with the Red Hot Poker Kniphofia uvaria plant because they bloom on spikes, are clump forming and the flowers open from the bottom up on the stalk. Other than that they aren’t very similar.
Native to South Africa, they grow from two to five feet high. The leaves are long, thin and dagger-like. Flowers spikes produce from spring through fall. They come in red, orange, coral, cream and yellow. The flowers are tubular florets and very attractive to hummingbirds.
They are rhizomes and should never sit in wet soil. Plant in full sun, loose, rich soil that drains well, general purpose fertilizer when planting and once a month after that during the growing season. Heat and drought tolerant.
They are cold hardy but only down to 14 degrees. I’d suggest digging and winter storage like you do gladiolas and canna lilies.
Although the two plants are sometimes confused by customers, they are definitely two different plants with a whole set of different requirements and looks. The reviews have been pretty negative on survival of mail order plants and seeds. Both can be found (with some hunting) at local nurseries in plant form each spring. Both have their positive attributes and place in your gardens. BUT not when planted together in pots or the same environment.
I like to distinguish them as:
- Poker Primrose: The shy sweet little girl peaking out from under a shade tree.
- Red Hot Poker: The bold tough guy guarding the sun filled garden with gusto.
And that's the whole deal on our poker flowers.
Note: All photos are from on line seed or informational catalogs and sites.