Evening primrose, also known as sundrops, are hardy perennials which were discovered in North America and brought to Europe in the early 17th century. They quickly became a cottage garden favorite because of their showy yellow flowers which burst into bloom just as the sun was preparing to set. The original favorites were Oenanthera macrocarpa, a 3-4 foot plant which produced brilliant yellow 3 inch flowers.
The French liked to eat the first year roots, preparing them as if they were salsify. The macrocarpa eventually fell out of favor because of their size and the room they needed in the cottage garden and were replaced by Oenanthera fruticosa, the 18 inch high, yellow flowering variety that we are familiar with today.
In his 1851 book, The Flower Garden, Joseph Breck described five varieties of evening primrose varying in size from 6 inches to 4 feet in height with yellow or white flowers. He stated, "All the species succeed well in any common garden soil, and easily propagated from divisions of the root, and from seed when it can be obtained."
To obtain blossoms in the first planting year, seeds must be sown in the fall. They can also be started indoors in early spring and then transplanted outside. Seeds should be planted 1/2 inch deep. They will germinate in less than 14 days. Young plants form rosettes which then produce flowering stems. Seeds started in the fall will produce rosettes which die back with the heavy frosts and then re-emerge in the spring. Thin plants to 6 inch separation. Evening primroses are heat and drought tolerant and the deer do not seem to like them. They will spread aggressively in the garden, but can be easily maintained by pulling the plants up by their roots.
Packet of flower seeds
Flowers second year
Heat and drought tolerant
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