by Jennifer Poindexter
Have you had the pleasure of admiring gentian flowers?
They’re a unique wildflower grown in many areas of the world. In fact, they grow on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.
With over 1,000 species, there’s a flower sure to suit everyone. These flowers prosper in a variety of growing conditions and produce vibrant blooms in blue, white, and red.
If you have an area around your home that could use a splash of color, check into growing gentian flowers. Here’s everything you should know about growing them:
Growing Conditions for Gentian Flowers
Gentian flowers have different growing conditions based upon the variety of plant. The first thing you must do is check which variety you’re intending to grow and try to mirror its natural growing conditions.
Some varieties of gentian flowers grow in boggy areas and others can grow in desert-like conditions. They also range in sizes as some can be small plants and other varieties can grow into full-size trees.
I’m going to provide general conditions for the most common varieties of gentian flowers. These plants are perennial, so ensure wherever they’re planted they will be undisturbed.
Gentian flowers typically grow in rock gardens or boggy, wooded areas. They’ll bloom in March and last until the first snow.
An interesting fact about gentian flowers is that they draw a multitude of pollinators to the area. These flowers attract moths, bats, flies, birds, and bees.
Each variety has different pollinators that will cause their blooms to open. From there, the plants continue to bloom on their own.
Most common varieties reach a height of a half foot to a foot tall. The shorter they are, the more they’ll spread along the ground.
In general, you can grow gentian flowers in planting zones three through nine.
The perfect growing location would be an area which receives full to partial sunlight. In warmer climates, an area which receives morning sun and afternoon shade would be best to protect the plant from overheating.
Your next big priority will be the soil. It should be well-draining but also remain consistently damp. Remember, most of these plants grow naturally in cool, moist areas.
Therefore, you want the soil to contain the necessary moisture the plant needs without over-saturating it.
Now that you have a general idea of where to grow gentian flowers, let’s discuss how you should go about planting them.
How to Plant Gentian Flowers
Planting gentian flowers can be an interesting process. The seeds have an erratic germination method. Therefore, if you’re new to growing these flowers, it might be best to search for seedlings from your local nursery.
In most cases, they’ll carry varieties which are native to your area and have the best chance at thriving.
However, if you’d prefer to start them from seed you can. The first method to start gentian flowers from seed starts in the spring.
Place the seeds in a growing tray filled with potting mix. Lightly cover the seeds with the mix. When done, plant the entire flat in a shaded location and cover with plastic.
You should still be able to see the top of the tray. Keep the soil, in the growing tray, damp by spritzing the seeds with a spray bottle.
Allow the flowers to grow in the tray for one year. At the end of the year, transplant them into a biodegradable pot.
Let the plants grow another year in the pot before planting the entire growing set-up in its permanent location during the fall of their second year.
Another method begins the same way. Start the seeds in a growing tray. Leave the tray indoors but ensure you water the seeds from beneath as this can provide the moisture the plants need without disturbing the developing roots.
Keep in mind, the seeds can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months to germinate, depending upon the variety planted.
The final method to start these flowers from seed involves seed stratification. Place the seeds in a freezer bag filled with soil. Leave them in the refrigerator for two months.
This makes the seeds think they’ve gone through a winter-cycle. Once this is complete, place the seeds in a dark location with temperatures around 70-degrees Fahrenheit.
After germination has occurred, transplant the seedlings into their permanent growing location. Remember, this can be a low-lying area or even near a pool as long as the soil drains adequately.
Planting these flowers in areas where they’ll receive consistent moisture, naturally, can help them deal with hot temperatures during the summer. However, most cold winters don’t impact gentian flowers.
When you plant gentian flowers be sure to provide one foot of space between each flower of a smaller variety. If you’re planting larger varieties, leave two feet of space between each plant.
You now have a few different ways to try to grow gentian flowers from seed. Once the plants have sprouted and are planted in their permanent location, you must know how to care for them properly.
Caring for Gentian Flowers
Gentian flowers are relatively low-maintenance plants. However, there are a few things you must do to keep these plants healthy, blooming, and returning each year.
The first thing you must do is provide adequate amounts of water. Gentian flowers need water but shouldn’t be soaked.
My favorite method for watering is the deep watering method. Water the flowers for a longer period of time but for fewer days of the week.
Check the soil every few days to ensure there’s still plenty of moisture. You do this by sticking your finger in the dirt surrounding the plant.
If it’s dry to your first knuckle, it’s time for another watering session. This is a good way to ensure the plants receive the water they need without overdoing it.
This is only an important step during the first year the flowers are growing in their permanent location. Once they’re well-established, they shouldn’t need much help from you except during periods of drought.
The next thing you must do to care for gentian flowers is to practice weed control during the first two years of the plants growing in their permanent location.
Gentian flowers are slow-growers, so they need help to ensure weeds don’t overtake their growing space while they’re trying to build a strong foundation.
Once the flowers are well-established, they’ll begin to spread and suffocate weeds on their own. The next thing you must do is to remove any spent blooms from the plants. This keeps your flowers looking healthy and vibrant. Plus, it avoids the plant wasting energy on dead blooms.
Our last two steps consist of dividing the flowers, when necessary, and mulching. Mulch is good for two reasons.
The first reason is it can help the plants retain moisture. Mulch is also helpful at the end of the season when the plants’ roots need protection over winter.
Simply cut the gentian flowers back to an inch above soil level. Then lightly cover with mulch for insulation.
Come spring, if your plants are quite large, you can divide them. It’s important to complete this step before the plants are growing again. You never want to disturb gentian flowers in the middle of production.
When dividing them, dig the plants up, run a trowel down the middle of the plant (and its roots), and transplant to a new growing location with adequate growing conditions.
Now that you understand how to care for gentian flowers, let’s discuss what threats you need to keep an eye on to protect your plants.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Gentian Flowers
Gentian flowers don’t have a ton of enemies in the garden. The main pest which bothers this flower is aphids.
They’re a common garden pest that will suck the sap from your plants. They can also spread disease. Stay on top of aphid infestations by applying an insecticide and spraying your plants, forcefully, with soapy water.
This will dislodge any remaining pests and the sticky sap they leave behind. Another concern about aphids is they can spread a harmful disease that commonly impacts gentian flowers known as cucumber mosaic virus.
You’ll recognize this ailment because your plants will have discolored splotches on their foliage. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease.
The other disease which commonly impacts gentian flowers is blight. The signs of this disease include dead foliage or brown splotches on the leaves of plants.
If you see this occurring, the best thing to do is remove the plant from the area and destroy it. Don’t compost it as blight will spread throughout your compost and make other plants sick when the compost is applied.
By staying alert to these potential threats, you could save your gentian flowers from attack and have a better growing experience with this plant.
The gentian flower isn’t an easy flower to grow. Though they grow wild all over the world, the germination rates make them difficult.
However, with perseverance and a little luck, you could have this gorgeous perennial flower growing around your home. If you’re up for a challenge in the garden, consider trying your hand at growing gentian flowers.