Cowslip (Primula veris)


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With its attractive flowers, the cowslip plant is an important food source for various insects. The leaves can be used in cooking. They are famous in Spanish cuisine, while the citrus-tasting flowers are great in salads or as a traditional flavouring for English country wine. 


  • Scientific Name: Primula veris
  • Common Name/s: common cowslip, cowslip primrose
  • Family: Primulaceae
  • Origin: native
  • Habitat: woodlands, parks, pastures, grassy banks, path sides, hedgerows and most grassy areas. 
  • Flowering Months: April to May

Where Do Cowslips Grow?

Native to the UK, cowslips can be found across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is a very common plant. However, its populations have declined with the destruction of its traditional habitat of areas such as hay meadows, woodlands and hedgerows. 

How Can You Identify Them?

Cowslip flower in the field

A species of the Primrose family, it can be difficult to correctly identify cowslip when it is not in flower, given it is quite similar to other Primulas. However, when in bloom, its yellow flowers are unmistakable. An early spring flower, it is traditionally associated with May Day garlands and spring weddings. Cowslips are semi-evergreen perennials, meaning they can grow back and flower over the course of several years. 


Cowslip leaves are dark green with a wrinkled-looking texture. Toothed, they are fairly wide and feature a prominent, lighter shade of green vein in the centre of each leaf. The leaves are close to the ground, where they form a rosette formation. Leaves are approximately 5-15cm long, and the longest ones can be as broad as 6cm. 


The cowslip flower is deep yellow. Each deep bell-shaped flower is composed of five individual petals. Unlike primrose flowers, cowslips have several yellow flowers per stem. You can also clearly identify cowslips as the flowers are all clustered together at the end of the stem, all facing the same side. 

Aside from being used in cooking, cowslip plants are also a traditional remedy for coughs as well as trouble sleeping. 

Do Cowslips Like Sun or Shade?

You can grow cowslips in full sun or partial shade. As they tend to do best in moist soils, you may prefer to plant them in partially shaded areas, depending on your location and other vegetation. If you are growing it in naturalised grass or a wild area of your garden, then it will also thrive in full sun. 

How Do You Take Care of Cowslips?

Cowslips are very easy to take care of. They can grow in almost all soil types, although they tend to favour sheltered positions. The average cowslip plant size is approximately 25cm high by 25cm wide, so make sure they will have enough space to flourish. 

Grow cowslips in groups to grace your rockeries, maintenance-free wildflower corner or your flower beds. Allow them to self-seed after flowering and mulch them once a year with manure or compost. 

Do you plan on growing cowslips in your garden? Send us a message below.

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