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Pink Evening Primrose


Photo:  Emmy Ulmschneider


By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners

 

The name Pink Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) seems to suggest a flower whose blooms open in the evening and close in the morning, but in the south this plant blooms in the morning and closes in the evening.  Speciosa, its botanical species name, means “showy” which is certainly true. And a garden or a roadside blooming in every shade of pink is a standout.  Said to be one of Lady Bird Johnson’s favorite flowers, its great color and cultivation ease will make it one of your favorite plants.   The native range of Pink Evening Primrose stretched from the tall grass prairies of Nebraska and Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri into the prairies of Texas and into northeastern Mexico.  But these different populations behave differently throughout its range:  Northern populations tend to be whiter and open at night while southern populations greet the morning with their showy pink color.  It is such a popular plant that it has spread with human help way beyond its native range. In addition, to its eye appeal, tender young leaves can be an edible spring green or used to make a natural yellow dye.

 

The blooms can range from white to pink with overlapping petals.  The petals range in size from 1-1/2” to 3”. The flowers are largest in the spring and smaller with the onset of summer heat.  Once you see them growing, you will want to grow them for yourself.  Pink Evening Primrose ranges from 12” to 18” and should be planted in full sun and cultivated soil.  But it will tolerate sand, clay, caliche, and rocky soil types.  

 

Best of all, it is drought tolerant.  Plant in late summer and fall for blooms from February to October or sow seeds in the fall.  Pick a spot with plenty of room since this plant multiplies and can overtake an area.  So, plant them where you need a spreading ground cover.  You can also use it as an accent in your lawn but don’t mow until it is done blooming, or you are tired of pink!

 

Pink Evening Primrose is known for reseeding in different parts of your yard.  It can form large colonies because it can reproduce by seed or spread through underground rhizomes.  Once established in a bed, it can take over so be prepared to keep it under control.  The seeds are capsules and readily seen so harvest some to plant in the fall for the following year.  Finches and other small animals will feed on the seeds.  Small bees and butterflies will nectar on them.  And night blooming evening primroses are visited by our beautiful nocturnal moths including my favorite the diurnal (day-flying) White-Lined Sphinx Moth. 

 

So, if you want an easy to grow plant with daytime beauty and nighttime drama, look no further! Seeds and plants are readily available.

 

 If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.   Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org.  Click on “Resources”.

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