How To Grow Polyanthus

Polyanthus have elegant long stems that protrude from the distinctively textured foliage. They’re a large and varied group of Primula, characterised by their bright, blazing colours.

A cottage garden classic, they will survive the harshest British winter, peeping out in the early spring as a sign of new life after the gloom of winter. Our polyanthus growing guide will provide all the help and advice you need to grow and care for your polyanthus plants.

What are polyanthus plants?

Polyanthus flowers appear singularly, clustered in a rosette at the base; some varieties also grow on long, stalked umbels. 

Polyanthus is thought to have originated from a hybrid between the cowslip (Primula veris) and the common primrose (Primula vulgaris) which are familiar from English hedgerows and verges. The resulting hybrid was called a ‘false oxlip’, and it began to be appreciated for its own showier flowers. The word ‘Polyanthus’ began to be used in the 1670s, with a labelled illustration first appearing in a plant catalogue in 1687.

When to plant polyanthus plants?

For autumn bedding, plant out your polyanthus plug plants from mid-September to early October, depending on the size of the plants acquired.

How and where to plant polyanthus

We recommend growing your polyanthus plants indoors until they reach 8 to 10cm in height at which point, they’ll be ready to plant outdoors making sure they are planted in moist and well-drained soil.

If you choose to grow your polyanthus in a container, fill the pot or basket up to three-quarters full with multipurpose compost. Carefully remove the plant from the tray or pot and place it in position. Fill the container back in with soil and gently firm down. Water in generously. 

For open planting, dig a hole with a trowel to the same size as the plant’s root ball, and place the plant in position. Fill in the hole and gently firm down the soil and water immediately making sure to plant the polyanthus so that their crown is at soil level and to leave a 10 cm gap between each plant. 

Water when necessary, but remember that compost in potted plants can dry quickly in winter winds. For best results feed your plants regularly with our Primrose and Polyanthus fertiliser.

When planting outdoors, dig an individual hole for each plant – the hole should be deep enough to cover the roots, but not any of the exposed stems. Gently firm into the ground and water in. Keep watering throughout the season and feed weekly for the best results. 

For container planting, fill the container up to three quarters with multipurpose compost. Carefully remove the plant from the tray or pot and place it in position. Fill the container back in with soil and gently firm down. Water in generously. Leave a space of 10 cm between plants when planting into a bed.

When do polyanthus flower?

Generally, polyanthus flower in the spring and flowering time can vary depending on the weather conditions. After a very harsh winter, the flowering may be slightly delayed, whereas a mild winter encourages earlier flowers.

Polyanthus plant care

Look after your polyanthus by removing any yellow leaves as they appear, and snipping off any dead-heads with secateurs to keep the plants looking neat. After flowering, the plants can be lifted and moved or left to naturalise.

Ready to create your own eye-catching polyanthus display now you know how to grow polyanthus? Take a look at our polyanthus collection.