Evening Primrose

Oenothera spp

Here in the West, we have numerous members of a wonderful group of drought tolerant native flowers, many of which are hard to find, or altogether overlooked. These plants can take partial shade or brutal full sun, require only occasional watering, propagate easily, and bloom profusely in the evenings and early mornings. 

UofA Cochise County Master Gardeners

Oenotheras are spreading or clumping groundcovers, native to the plains, grasslands and deserts of North America. They have large, showy four-petaled flowers in pink, white, or yellow, and create carpets of bright color in desert landscapes. Oenotheras are generally night-blooming plants, but most will stay open until midday.

These widely adapted plants can be used in a variety of landscape situations from full sun to light shade. They are especially attractive when used in groupings and as a groundcover or color accent under desert trees such as palo verdes or mesquites. Evening primroses blend well with other perennial wildflowers. All types of evening primroses produce seeds that are a rich source for food for desert songbirds. The flowers attract nocturnal wildlife.

Xeriscape: Nature’s Choice of Landscape

Flowers: J F M A M J J A S O N D
Origin: Various
Family: Onagraceae, Evening Primrose Family
Size: 6″ – 4′
Sun: Full to filtered
Watering: Low
Growth Rate:
Temperature: Hardy to about 10 degrees F
Disease and Pests:
Uses: Host for the White-lined Sphinx Moth. Good nectar plant for bees. Birds love the seeds.
Notes: Can be annual, biennial or perennial. Do not overwater. Photo is of the Tufted Evening Primrose.

Mexican evening primrose (O. berlandieri)

Perhaps the best known Oenethera in the southwest. Requires minimal watering but still produces abundant delicate pink blossoms. Mexican evening primrose spreads quickly and is useful for stabilizing soil on banks or slopes. It should be used with caution in areas near irrigated beds where it can become invasive.

White-tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)

Exceptionally large and showy fragrant flowers. Appreciates well drained soil and partial shade in low desert areas.

Chihuahuan Primrose (Oenothera stubbei)

Two inch yellow flowers and bright green foliage. This ground cover spreads via above ground runners that root where moisture is adequate. This is a non-invasive species that requires a bit more water than other Oenothera. Foliage turns a deep red color in the winter.

Hooker’s Evening Primrose (Oenothera elata)

Flowers in June to September with a stalk up to 8′ tall bearing large yellow flowers. Prefers damp moist soil. This native is a perennial or biennial.

Baja Primrose (O. stubbii)

Large yellow flowers. Plants don’t like constant moisture.

Missouri Primrose (O. missouriensis)

Large yellow flowers. Plants don’t like constant moisture.

Prairie Evening Primrose (O. albicaulis)


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