Growers have backed up ADAS's warning. With primroses popular on Mother's Day (6 March), this could lead to shortages on one of the biggest selling peaks. Nurseries are trying to hold back growth, with cold storage becoming an option.
Burston Nurseries managing director James Alcaraz said: "The cold snap in mid January helped hold primroses but the real issue was not the shortage of product but the shortage of saleable product that wasn't rotting because so much was in colour after Christmas. We were removing flowers to keep crops looking nice. We are going to take steps to try and preserve the crop for key customers so we have availability for Mother's Day and Easter. There could be a shortage."
Many garden centre buyers are "concerned" and had hoped to fall back on Dutch growers, but their crop was early too and losses were high, added Alcaraz. Vale Royal Horticultural's Dave Wales said: "Certainly the mild weather has brought crops forward. January could well be okay but any later maybe short."
Alcaraz said he was pleased the cold snap had come and helped kill off old bedding and generated demand for replacements. The warm weather led to "poor" autumn sales because the lack of frost meant summer bedding did not die. Alcaraz, who has taken over from Paul Young, who has retired after 34 years, said overall 2015 sales would be similar to 2014 and the warm December "undoubtedly" saved heating costs "but we have lost out on pansy and viola sales".
He added: "A change from mild to cold weather would be great because any bedding still hanging around, such as fuchsia or geranium, will hopefully get taken out and people will look to replace it in the spring."
Bransford Webbs managing director Geoff Caesar said staff cut flowers off primroses before Christmas to hold them back. The 50,000 he is growing are scheduled to finish at the end of February to make way for other crops.
Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said primroses are flowering early but stocks will build because few retailers are buying heavily yet. WD Smith managing director Mike Smith added: "It's too early to really be a concern." Stock levels were high immediately after New Year but he would expect to have run out by Mother's Day. Primroses "will be scarce by then", but his crop - grown for early March - is on schedule.