Pink Oenothera – A Wildflower for your Flower Borders

Once native only to northeastern Mexico and the grasslands of 5 south-central US states, Pink Oenothera has spread through about 2/3s of country.

More than likely visitors to those states found the foot high colonies of this pink evening primrose with their nodding buds and cup shaped blooms irresistibly charming and took some home with them. Even those passing at night when the moon was full could be drawn to its brightness.

Armed with a knowledge of its characteristics almost anyone can find a place of welcome for pink evening primrose (Oenothera) in their borders or gardens. It requires a little watching and eventually the flick of a wrist to pull out plants that pop up where they are not wanted but the beauty and value of this plant are worth that little bit of effort to control it.

Not only is the bloom beautiful, but it blooms aboout 2 months inthe spring (May and June in my garden), diminishing with hot weather although not entirely.  This sun lover is hardy and drought resistant, surviving in dry and moist conditions as long as the soil is well drained.

It is a good nectar source for bees and butterflies and birds like the goldfinch love its seed. Contrary to its name it stays open all day.

They tend to be surreptitiously invasive and it is this seemingly secret spreading that you need to be aware of.  They do this in the winter when no top growth is visible and then pop up in other places in the spring by fine roots that crawl underground. (They also reseed.) Foliage is  easy to recognize and easy to pull up so I don’t think they warrant the label placed on them by some as a noxious weed.

By July of the second or third year of its bloom in your border,  you’ll have a pretty good idea of the places where you’d welcome a colony of this little flower and where you wouldn’t. If foliage is starting to look shabby by then, cut it to the ground.  In places where you don’t want it or don’t want it to spread —-pull it out.  Sometimes I pull out so much that I fear I won’t have enough next year, but I always do.  And by the way, it may go dormant in summers that are extremely dry, only to re-sprout with fall rains.

The entire plant is suppose to be edible. I have never eaten it, but I could certainly see dressing up a luncheon plate with the blossoms of evening primrose. (If you want to eat it– please — do some more research first to be on the safe side.) It is the source of evening primrose oil which is said to have all kinds of health benefits.

I like to use Oenothera in clumps of one square foot or in a large patch of 3 feet long by 2 feet deep in various places at the edge of my borders.  It’s very complimentary sporadically placed in our front yard borders and an absolute necessity in my extensive back borders where it  adds such a nice brightness.

Pair with blooms that are various shades of pink for an even more dramatic look or blue blooms.  (If you live where blue bonnets grow what a pairing that would be!)

Just to get your imagination going here are some more ideas for their use:

1. over spring bulbs
2. a full-sun ground cover
3. along dry south and west facing walls and pavement areas
4. rocky embankments
5. gravelly driveway edges
6. rock gardens.
7. along the edges of roads and trails
8. wildflower meadows
9. any naturalistic border
10. any flower border

If you don’t have Pink Oenothera and you’re looking for a new plant give this charming little perennial wildflower a try.  With a little attention, it will give you nothing but joy.



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  • Absolutely happy to FINALLY learn what this plant is! No one seemed to know. It was given to me by someone who thought that I’d like it. Started with 9 flowering plants, but didn’t know what to expect. Now have two spots where it grows (one surrounding a crinum). Wasn’t sure if it negatively affected anything, but I really like the flowers. I’ve been trying to determine where I’d like to make it permanent (thought along the south wall of the house as a border). It IS prolific!
    Thanks a Bunch!

  • Theresa,
    Are they easy to start from seed? We have a horribly steep front bank & I’m always looking for plants that will spread to use there as a ground cover so the rain storms won’t wash the soil away.

  • Betty you could start them in containers. (Sow thinly; do not cover just press into grow mix; they need light to germinate.) Might take till the 3rd year before you have enough to really make a show, but they’re beautiful when they do.

    If you sow where you want them (in “disturbed” soil) there might be enough spring weather left for them to germinate and get started.
    Keep in mind if its a slope the seed might wash away with the rain.

    There’s a lot of stuff online about oenothera (usually called evening primrose) but it’s usually a different variety. Lot of talk about the yellows — which are also nice — but totally different – any many varieties. So careful what you order.

    Plants like liriope and vining covers like vinca minor will hold the sold better and keep it from washing. But they’ll spread to other places if not kept in check — like most covers.

  • Thanks Theresa,

    I’ll try to order some seed later today. I’ll make sure it’s the right kind. I like the pink. I’ve planted some vinca minor in areas down there that I pulled up from another area. I’ve fallen so many times going down the front yard to get to the front bank that I won’t go down there anymore unless Alfred is here. Looking for a pair of track shoes with the studs to help grip the soil. If Terry didn’t have such big feet I could use his old ones from college!

    Have a GREAT day,
    Betty D

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