How to Grow Gentiana Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Gentian

Plants that belong to the Gentiana genus are low growing and mat forming hardy perennials.

They are evergreens that come into bloom from summer through to autumn.

When in bloom the flowers of Gentiana plants are clustered and may be blue, purple, pink, white or yellow. A commonly grown member of Gentiana in the garden is Gentian.

Gentiana douglasiana
Gentiana douglasiana - Swamp Gentian by pellaea.

Gentiana acaulis
Gentiana acaulis by pizzodisevo.

Gentiana Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Gentian.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial
Height: 3 to 80 inches (8 to 200 cm).
Native: Worldwide.
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 9.
Flowers: Species dependent: Summer and/or autumn.
Flower Details: Blue, white, creamy, purple, red, pink, yellow. Trumpets. Usually five petals; can vary from four to seven.
Foliage: Evergreen. Opposite. Elliptical. Lanceolate.
Sowing: Cover seed. Germination time: two weeks to six months. Spacing Small 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm); Large 14 to 24 inches (35 to 60 cm).
Seed: Method 1: Seeds should first be sown into flats in the autumn. Next sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. Keep an eye on the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist. After one year’s growth transfer seedlings to a peat pot. Transfer to the final location at the end of the second season of growth in the autumn.
Seed: Method 2: In the spring, mix seeds in a moist growing medium, place in a freezer bag, then stratify by refrigeration for two months. Transfer to a dark area and keep at Temperature: 70 to 75°F (21 to 24°C). Once seedlings emerge transplant them to their final location.
Requirements and care: Full sunlight or partial shade. Soil pH 5.0 to 7.5. Humus, moist soil. Keep soil moist by regular watering but do not drench. Propagate: by dividing at the start of spring in cool areas or following flowering in warmer areas.
Miscellaneous: Gentiana is used as a bitter flavouring in many drinks including Suze, Aperal, Bitters brew, Genziana, and Moxie.

How to Grow Gentian, Gentiana

It is probably easiest to grow Gentiana species such as Gentian from plants purchased from garden centres; even then these are not the easiest of plants to grow.

If you plan to grow Gentiana from seed then sow the seeds in flats in the spring; lightly cover the seeds; place the flats into a black plastic bag; place the flat into a fridge and chill at 4 degrees for two months; remove the flat and keep in the dark at a temperature of 20 to 25 degrees centigrade. Gentiana species can take from two weeks to six months to germinate.

Once you have Gentiana seedlings transplant them into the garden in the autumn or spring at a spacing of 15 to 30 cm (most Gentiana varieties) or about 50cm if you are growing one of the taller species. Ideally Gentian should be grown in a sunny part of the garden, though most species of Gentiana can tolerate partial shade too. The soil type is important for good results and should be moist, pH 5.5 to 7, cool and rich in humus.

Caring for Gentiana

Not the easiest species to grow or look after, the Gentiana plant requires a moist soil, so water regularly but do not drench the plants; never disturb the roots or move the plants during the growing season. If you require more Gentiana plants it is best to purchase them from a garden centre; or very carefully propagate by division once they have finished blooming.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Gentiana plants. Updated September 2020.