Evening primrose has a long bloom time, offering nectar and pollen to moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, and many night-time pollinators from mid-summer to fall. Lemon-scented flowers sit atop leafy, upright stalks growing 2-4 feet tall, or up to 6 feet in ideal conditions. The fragrant flowers open at night and close around noon or later on cloudy days. It does best in full sun and moist, well-drained soils. Other growing conditions are tolerated, but growth will be on the shorter side.
Also known as “king’s cure-all” for its medicinal properties, evening primrose is a self-seeding biennial plant that forms a stubby rosette during the first year and sends up stems in its second year, during which it flowers, sets seed, and dies. Under UV light, primrose flowers display a nectar guide pattern that is only visible to bees and other pollinators, of which moths are the most important.
The plants are often found in disturbed areas. They fill flower beds at a moderate rate and thrive in dry, open areas.
Grows 2-4’ tall.
Prefers full sun and tolerates part shade.
Adapts to most well-drained soils and benefits from regular watering. Mulch roots to keep them cool and retain moisture.
Four-petaled, 2”-wide yellow flowers bloom after one year of growth.
Basal leaves form a rosette in the first year. Lance-shaped, wavy-edged stem leaves develop the second year.
Moths are the most important pollinator of the flowers, particularly Sphinx moths. Other visitors include hummingbirds, honeybees, bumblebees, and primrose miner bee. In central Ohio, the caterpillars of 15 species of some of our showiest moths feed on the foliage. This includes the stunning primrose moth, and other beauties such as pearly wood nymph, white-lined sphinx, grape leaffolder, arge tiger, nessus sphinx and primrose cochylid moths. Various beetles feed on the foliage and the seeds are eaten by goldfinches.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
All of the plant parts are edible and have a mild taste. Roots of young plants can be eaten raw or cooked like potatoes. Before flowering occurs, leaves may be sautéed or used in soups or salads. Stems may be peeled and eaten raw or fried. Flower buds are a treat when pickled or added to salads and soups. Whole seeds may be roasted or used in pastries. Plants are toxic to cats and dogs.
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