Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Cowslip Primrose, Cowslip, St. Peter's Keys, Palsywort, Tisty-Tosty, Cowflops, Culver Keys
Primula veris

Family: Primulaceae
Genus: Primula (PRIM-yew-luh) (Info)
Species: veris (VER-iss) (Info)

11 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)
9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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2 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Feb 1, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

I was surprised and delighted to find that two cowslips I planted over a decade ago have prospered here in Boston Z6a with little care. They're very showy in bloom. They bloom well, and haven't suffered too badly from the slugs.

They're in dappled shade all day. The soil is a heavy acid silty urban mess, in a raised bed, with some organic amendment, and only watered sporadically during droughts. Though the books recommend frequent division, I have yet to divide either clump after 12 years.

I've never seen a self-sown seedling, but I don't know if that's due to site conditions/climate or to having two plants that can't cross-pollinate.

I was surprised by how well these have done, despite my negligence. They aren't often grown around here.

Positive gardeningfun On Apr 17, 2010, gardeningfun from Harpersfield, OH (Zone 5a) wrote:

Bluestone Nursery sold this to me under the name "Cabrillo". It looks just like this and is a Primula. It is wonderful and so cute. It came up right away in early spring and started blooming last week. The blooms are really opening up now and growing taller each day. They are around 6" tall now. They look real healthy. I couldn't find anything on them under the name "Cabrillo", but when I searched the titsy-tosty sites, I saw this and it looks just like mine. I'll have to take a picture and figure out how to post it.
I live in a very cold, windy site and had tons of snow this winter and it did great.

Neutral Baa On Dec 9, 2001, Baa wrote:

A variable, evergreen perennial from Europe.

Has slightly hairy rosettes of oblong-ovate, scalloped or toothed, mid green, wrinkled leaves. Bears drooping, yellow sometimes with orange spots at the base of the lobes, scented, funnel shaped flowers on one side of the flower stem and a light green conspicuous calyx.

The flower colour can vary from light yellow to deep red in cultivated forms.

Flowers April-July.

Likes a well drained, moist, fertile, lime soil in full sun or light shade.

Superb woodland or wild garden plant and will reward you with many seedlings if happy.

Can irritate sensitive skin.

Children used to suck the nectar from the flowers and the scent is a little like cow's breath (which smells sweet if you were feeling ill at the thought!). This isn't where its most used common name comes from though, its from the Old English Cu-slyppe because they thought it was more abundant in meadows with a lot of cow slops.

Once used as a medicinal (please don't try it) for nervous complaints and palsy (another common name is Palsywort) and in a cosmetic water (see irritation note).


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Seward, Alaska
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Royal Oak, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Helena, Montana
Hilton, New York
Geneva, Ohio
Coopersburg, Pennsylvania
Chimacum, Washington
Kalama, Washington
Vancouver, Washington

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