Auriculas are members of the genus Primula which is a large family of plants comprising over 425 species and many thousands of hybrids. Some of its simple forms were brought to traditional English weaving towns by Flemish weavers looking for work in the late sixteenth century, towns such as Rochdale and Middleton, Norwich and Ipswich. Gradually the plants became more complex until today, there are Show, Alpine, Double and Border Auriculas. Within the ‘Show’ type are Edged, Self, Striped and Fancy Auriculas, while within the ‘Alpines’ are Light Centred, Gold Centred, Laced or Fancy. Auriculas with a delicate silver white bloom (the ‘meal’ or ‘farina’ that covers leaves, stem and the backs of flowers) are prized. Prize flowers used to be shown in ‘Auricula Theatres’, a transportable, roofed set of shelves, painted black to best show off the dazzling colours of the flowers.
Auriculas are hardy perennial plants that will tolerate the coldest weather. They are happiest in well-drained gritty soil with plenty of fresh air; a cold greenhouse with plenty of ventilation or a cold frame works well. It is usual to grow Show Auriculas in 3.5-inch pots with some protection from heavy rain to maintain the farina. Re-pot annually in fresh compost, removing the offsets to maintain the quality of the blooms, and water carefully.