How to Grow Pink Evening Primrose

Pink evening primrose blossoms

Taesam Do / Getty Images

 

The pink evening primrose, also known as a pinkladies plant, is part of the larger Onagraceae family. The name suggests a flower that opens in the evening and closes each morning, though in southern regions of the United States, this plant opens its flowers in the morning and closes them at dusk.

The ‘speciosa’ in the botanical name of this plant (Oenothera speciosa) translates to 'showy', and for good reason. The white to pale pink blossoms feature four overlapping petals and grow between one and a half and three inches in size.

They catch the attention of gardeners everywhere but must be planted selectively. They have a tendency to multiply and overtake cultivated land. 

Botanical Name Oenothera speciosa
Common Name Pink evening primrose, pinkladies, Mexican primrose
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 12 to 18 inches tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Loose, well-draining
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Summer to fall
Flower Color White to pale pink
Hardiness Zones 4 to 9
Native Area Central to southwestern United States
Pink evening primrose flowers in bloom
Pink evening primrose flowers in bloom James Metcalf / EyeEm / Getty Images 

How to Grow Pink Evening Primrose

There isn’t much you need to do to successfully grow pink evening primrose. These plants are hardy, adaptable, and self-reliant. They require full sun and regular rainfall for the best blooms, but will otherwise preserve themselves by entering dormancy if they lack moisture.

Pinkladies, as these plants are sometimes called, will reproduce through self-seeding and runners (called stolons), so this is something to be aware.

If you’re looking for a well-behaved perennial that will keep to itself, then the pink evening primrose is not the plant for you. Otherwise, these are easy to care, low-maintenance plants.

Light

Pink evening primrose is adaptable to different amounts of light, depending on your objectives for this plant. If you’re looking for a showy, flowering plant, then you’ll need to plant this perennial in full sun.

However, if you want a dense, quickly growing groundcover, then pink evening primrose does just fine in full shade. However, it will not flower. Instead, you’ll have branching green leaves that are about one to three inches long.

Soil

Plant pink evening primrose in loose, well-draining soil for best results. It does fine in rocky, sandy, or clay soil types.

While many other flowering plant species thrive with rich soil, pink evening primrose actually prefers poor soil. This makes it a good option if you have an inhospitable spot in your garden or yard that you’d like to cultivate.

Water

A moderate consumer of water, pink evening primrose blooms best when it receives a steady supply of water. In the first year, it’s recommended that you water this plant weekly to help it thrive, but moving forward, rainfall is generally sufficient irrigation.

As a drought-tolerant species, you won’t need to worry much if rainfall is spotty or inconsistent. However, keep in mind that a water shortage may cause this plant to become dormant and cease bloom production.

If you want to keep it active all summer long, then supplement any rainfall shortage with a weekly or bi-weekly watering.

To avoid overwatering, let the soil dry in between watering sessions. Too much water can lead to a variety of problems, including root decay, fungal problems for foliage, and discolored leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

The pink evening primrose has proven itself adaptable to various climates by naturalizing in 28 of the lower 48 states. This plant is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9, and they tend to grow best in temperate to warm climates.

It’s safe to say that they can withstand heat better than cold temperatures.

Fertilizer

Given that pink evening primrose does best in poor soil, it's generally not advantageous to fertilize this plant species. The extra nutrients are of little value to this flower that seems to enjoy neglect more than nurturing.

Propagating Pink Evening Primrose

If you wish to multiply pink evening primrose plants, you’ll have no difficulties. These plants are prolific. If you are intentionally trying to propagate the plants, you can do so either by seed, division, or cuttings.

However, it should be noted that most gardeners find that pink evening primrose is a stellar self-seeder and will spread abundantly.

It also spreads by means of stolons and can show up some distance from the original planting. In fact, containing the spread is usually of more concern than how to propagate this species. 

Harvesting

Another surprising use of the pink evening primrose is harvesting its edible roots and leaves. The roots are said to have a peppery like flavor and can be prepared in a similar fashion to other root vegetables. The leaves are also popular for consumption and are eaten as salad greens. However, these are best harvested before the plant begins to bloom -- otherwise, they may turn bitter.

The seeds of the evening primrose plant also are frequently harvested as a natural source of Omega-6 fatty acids—but birds love them too, so you’ll have competition for gathering them.

Landscape Uses

Pink evening primrose is generally advisable for landscapes where you need a soft, abundant groundcover. They also make a great addition to a wildflower patch. However, they can be very challenging to use in manicured gardens and will require vigilance against spreading.