Polyanthus are a type of primula and over the years they have been hybridised a great deal by plant breeders to create some excellent forms for the garden. They differ from primroses in the fact that polyanthus flowers are borne in a cluster on a thick stem, whereas primroses produce single flowers in slender individual short stems.
They are hardy and will grow in most soils and the flowers come in a wide range of colours from soft pastel to very bright, plus unusually marked and edged flowers. Flowering can start as early as February and they can still be in flower up to the end of May. Young plants are available for autumn planting or they can be bought in spring in flower to give instant colour.
Polyanthus sold in garden centres are all grown from seed and many are F1 hybrids that have vigour and excellent flowering ability. Some of the older named varieties such as Polyanthus ‘Gold Lace’ are also seed raised, but these tend to have smaller flowers and are more delicate and look great when naturalised in a border or grown in clay pots.
Another method of propagating polyanthus is to divide established clumps after flowering. This method is a fast and easy way to bulk up numbers, especially unusual or rarer colours.