By Jennifer Poindexter
Maybe you’re familiar with evening primrose oil as a supplement found on most grocery store shelves. The capsules are made from oil from the plant and are thought to help those who suffer from PMS, menopausal issues, or arthritis.
But it turns out that entire herb is edible as well and can be used in a variety of ways around the kitchen. Although evening primrose has many reasons to be grown, some gardeners turn away from the idea.
Though gorgeous when blooming, evening primrose only blooms in late afternoons or overnight. This is where its name comes from. The other times of day, it resembles a weed.
Here’s how to grow your very own evening primrose plants.
Growing Conditions for Evening Primrose
Evening primrose is one of the easiest plants you can grow in your garden. It prefers full sun but can grow in slight shade too.
The biggest factor is to make sure it’s planted where the soil is well-draining. You should aim to provide the highest quality soil possible, but this plant is so versatile it can even grow in subpar soil. If you can provide a well-draining sunny location, you shouldn’t have trouble growing evening primrose.
How to Plant Evening Primrose
Evening primrose can be started indoors before frost has passed, or it can be direct sown into the garden area once all threat of frost is over.
To start evening primrose indoors, plant the seeds in quality soil. It’s a good idea to mix sand into the soil to encourage proper drainage. When the seedlings have two or more leaves, it’s time to transplant them outdoors.
If you prefer the direct sow method, you can sow the seeds into the garden space in early spring. Once you’ve decided where the plants will grow, loosen the soil to make it easier for the seeds to take root.
After the ground is prepared, sow the seeds into the area. There’s no precise method when casting the seeds. Use a rake to gingerly place some of the soil over the seeds. They don’t require much soil coverage to germinate properly.
When the seedlings begin to sprout, thin them to where there’s at least 12 inches of space between each plant.
Whether you direct sow or transplant evening primrose, it’s a simple process which should allow even the novice gardener to grow this herb with ease.
Caring for Evening Primrose
Evening primrose is a low-maintenance option for your garden. It’s a biennial which means it won’t bloom until its second year. This herb thrives in planting zones four through nine.
If you live where drought is a common occurrence, you’re in luck. Evening primrose is a drought tolerant plant and shouldn’t require extra watering on your part.
This plant should be fertilized in early spring to encourage flowering. It has a short blooming season which occurs in May and June.
Since evening primrose is an avid self-sower, you may want to cut the plants back in the fall after flowering has halted. This will stop them from spreading too much in your grow space.
Pruning and deadheading are important steps when caring for evening primrose. This will keep the plant healthy and make it think it’s younger than what it is.
By removing the dead blooms, it encourages new growth and stops the plant from going to seed. Performing these basic duties will keep your plants healthy and vibrant while growing in your garden.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Evening Primrose
Evening primrose is commonly placed in a grow space as a sacrificial plant. In theory, this draws the pests away from other plants growing in the same garden.
For this reason, evening primrose has a few pests you must be aware of when growing the herb for harvest. The first pest you should know about is the Japanese beetle. They’re the bane of most gardener’s existence. These bugs are large beetles which fly from plant to plant devouring them.
You can try to get rid of Japanese beetles by using insecticidal soaps, traps made especially for Japanese beetles, or by sprinkling diatomaceous earth on your plants.
The next pest to know about is the lygus bug. They are flat, round insects with wings. They come in a variety of colors, so the best way to identify them is by the triangle marking they have in the center of their backs.
To get rid of them you can use insecticide, diatomaceous earth, or sticky traps.
Leafhoppers are another pest drawn to evening primrose. They have a flat body and can be green, yellow, or brown. They also have wings and will fly if you move a plant they’re residing on.
These pests are known for sucking the sap from plants, and they produce toxins in their saliva. This toxin will cause the leaves of a plant to curl, can cause discoloration, and plant deformities.
The best way to get rid of leafhoppers is to spray your garden heavily with a water hose to dislodge the pests and their eggs from plants.
You can also use diatomaceous earth or insecticidal soap to remove leafhoppers. Practicing good hygiene in the garden is another vital step to getting rid of these pests.
By removing any dead plants or debris from the garden, it leaves minimal places for leafhoppers to nest.
Slugs and snails are other pests drawn to evening primrose. They come out at dusk and will chew holes in your herbs.
They also leave behind a slimy substance which displays where they crawl on the plant. You can hand pick these pests, or you can sprinkle coffee grounds or diatomaceous earth on the ground around the base of the plant.
Slugs and snails don’t like caffeine which is why coffee keeps them at bay. The diatomaceous earth is a rough and deadly terrain for them to crawl over.
Spider mites also enjoy evening primrose. They’re tiny bugs you probably won’t know you have until the infestation has grown large enough to begin seeing webs in the garden.
These pests can harm your plant because they devour the chlorophyll it needs for survival. The best way to rid your plants of spider mites is to spray them with soapy water to dislodge any pests or webs.
Be sure to spray both sides of any foliage. Once this has been done, you can apply neem oil to the plant.
The last pest you should be aware of is the aphid. Aphids are common garden pests in most areas. They come in a variety of colors and suck sap from your plant.
To get rid of aphids, spray the plants heavily with soapy water. Be sure to spray all sides of the plant and prepare to repeat this process as much as needed.
The diseases you must watch for with evening primrose are crown and root rot. Both can be caused by fungus in the soil. Root rot can also be caused by overwatering.
If your plants begin to yellow and die off, it’s a good idea to see if they have crown or root rot. Depending upon where the rot is will let you know which one has impacted your plants.
You can treat crown rot by using a fungicide on the soil and pulling the soil away from the crown of the plant to let it dry out. You can also try to gently remove any rotten areas from the crown.
Usually, once crown rot sets in, it’s hard to treat.
Root rot is easier to cure. You’ll need to carefully uproot the plant and remove any infected roots. Plant the herb in a new area with healthier soil.
Don’t fertilize the plant while it’s reestablishing its root system and be mindful not to overwater it.
These are the pests and diseases you’ll want to be mindful of when growing evening primrose.
How to Harvest Evening Primrose
You can use every part of the evening primrose herb. The roots can be dried and used in soups or in a stir fry. They can also be pickled but be sure you boil the roots twice before using it in any recipe.
You can add the flowers to a salad, and the leaves can be used for making herbal tea. The seeds can be harvested and enjoyed in any dish where you’d add any other type of seed. They can also be used as a topping to a salad.
Be advised, you should be careful when consuming evening primrose. Some people consume it without issues. Others have reported the herb causing their throats to become irritated.
When harvesting evening primrose, there are different methods for each part. The flowers and leaves can be cut from the plant with scissors. You’ll want to harvest both when they’re young and fresh.
Either dry or use them quickly because they wilt fast once harvested.
To harvest the root, you’ll need to remove the plant from the ground during year one only. This may sound like a waste, but evening primrose reseeds quickly enough that it shouldn’t cause a problem.
If you’re interested in consuming seeds, collect them towards the end of summer or early fall. You can dry them and use them in the kitchen or for planting the following year.
Harvesting evening primrose is a simple process, but it provides a variety of ingredients for culinary adventures.
Whether you have a green or black thumb, evening primrose is a great herb to grow in your garden. It’s wonderful for adding fresh flavors into your meals or for medicinal purposes.
If you’re trying to grow more adventurous herbs around your home, this could be the herb you’ve been searching for.