Forget about fake news; it’s fake flowers that have my attention. Actually, they are not fake; they are the brilliantly colorful primula. Recently, the astonishing color and beauty had passers-by gawking in amazement.

It took about 72 hours of temperatures in the 20s and I was begging for mercy, and just like magic there they were, in a grocery store of all places, offering the respite so needed during an arctic blast.

I do not understand why every florist, flower shop and garden center don’t have a truck full of a half-dozen or more varieties for us to buy. There is no plant that can cure the winter doldrums like the primula.

Primula comes from the Latin word that means “firstling of spring,” which quite accurately describes this plant. There are about 400 species of primulas, which are mostly alpine perennials with short rhizomes. Because they are alpine perennials and I have always lived in the hot South, I have treasured them in containers. You may be able to enjoy yours in the morning sun or afternoon shade of the landscape.

These are not lantanas that will bloom until fall but will simply give you 12 to 14 weeks of unimaginable color that no other plant can match and at an otherwise bleak time of the year. If you see them at a garden center or flower shop looking like they are waiting for adoption, give them a try; you will never go without again unless of course, you can’t find them.

I love their brightly colored flowers clustered together. Some of the mixes are so pretty an artist’s palette would be jealous. They also do well in mixed containers grown with pansies, daffodils, mustard or kale. Choose a good light, well-drained mix for your container, and then plant at the same depth as they grew in the original pot. Look for plants with healthy foliage that fills up their container.

I am partial to the Primula acaulis varieties like the Orion series and the beauty of the bicolor selections in the Danova series. These are fairly short plants with short flower stalks, but they have colors that are so bold you will feel like a kid opening up the first box of crayons.

The next tallest of the primulas come from another species or group known as Primula obconica hybrids. These plants can reach 12 to 18 inches in height producing taller flower stalks. The colors are very pretty, not as bold but look like fine depression-glass. The Libre and Juno series are the most popular in this group. Another species you might like is the Primula malacoides with taller stalks but airy clusters of slightly smaller flowers.

When you get your plants keep them moist and fed with a dilute water-soluble, 20-20-20 fertilizer that has micronutrients. Avoid overhead watering to lessen fungal diseases. I use a small watering can with a tiny spout that allows me to pinpoint where the water goes. Be sure to deadhead old flowers for a tidy appearance and increased flower productivity. Pots of flowers with riveting color until spring are well worth it to me.

Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him at: @CGBGgardenguru.

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