Gentian or Gentiana: description of flowers and cultivation methods

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Gentian or Gentiana (Gentiana) is a genus of shrubs and herbs , perennial, rarely annual, belonging to the gentian family. They grow in temperate and tropical climates, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere. Many types are decorative.

  • Family: gentian.
  • Homeland: grow on all continents except Africa and Antarctica.
  • Rootstock: short, thick.
  • Stem: short, erect or ascending.
  • Leaves: sessile, opposite.
  • Fruit: box.
  • Reproductive ability: propagated by cuttings, dividing the bush, seeds.
  • Illumination: photophilous or shade-tolerant, depending on the species.
  • Watering: moderate.
  • Content temperature: winter-hardy.
  • Flowering duration: in spring, summer or autumn, depending on the species, from 3 weeks to 1.5 months.

Gentiana description – from root to flowers

The genus includes about 400 species of perennial and annual herbs and shrubs. Height ranges from 2 cm to 1.5 m. As a rule, all plants have a short stem, straight or ascending, and basal leaves forming a rosette. Leaves sessile, opposite, entire, ovate to oblong-lanceolate. Gentian flowers are solitary, or collected in apical semi-umbrella inflorescences, or located in the axils of the leaves, 1-2 pcs. Peduncles are straight, vertical, ending in large bell-shaped flowers, mostly blue or light blue, of a special tone, which is called “gentian”. They can also be purple, lilac, violet, white and even yellow. They consist of 5, less often 4 petals, folded into a bud, between which there are large or small folds with straight, fringed or wavy edges. The fruit is a single-celled capsule with seeds, small, different in shape depending on the species. During normal storage, the seeds quickly lose their germination.

Gentian flower in the photo.

The Latin name, Gentiana, was given to the flower by the name of Gentius, the Illyrian king (180-168 BC), who, according to Pliny, used the juice of the plant to treat the plague. The Russian name for the flower, gentian, is given because of the bitter taste inherent in its roots and leaves.

In many countries, they are on the verge of extinction in nature and are protected species, although they are still quite common in Russia.

In decorative floriculture, many types of gentians are used, photos of some of them are presented below.

Some decorative types of gentian are blue and yellow

More than 90 species are used in culture, most often grown in gardens:

Stemless gentian, Koch’s gentian (G. acaulis, G. kochiana) , one of the most common undersized species, 7–10 cm high, with shortened stems ending with one large bright blue flower. The leaves are oval-elliptical, light green, collected in a rosette, eventually forming a dense pillow. Blooms in May-June, grows slowly. There are varieties “Hohenstein”, “Rannoch” with large dark lilac-blue flowers.

Gentian spring (G. verna) , a miniature plant up to 5 cm high, with blue, rarely white single flowers appearing at the ends of the stems in June. It takes root with difficulty in the garden, it is rarely found in culture.

Gentian (G. asclepiadea) , with arched shoots up to 80 cm high, large blue, dark blue, less often pink or white flowers, located in the leaf axils of 1-3 pieces, blooming in July – August.

Gentian yellow (G. lutea) , the highest species, with a thick taproot and hollow erect stems up to 1.5 m tall. The leaves are bluish-green, oblong-elliptical, opposite, basal – petiolate, up to 30 cm long, stem – short-petiolate, smaller. It blooms in July-August with large yellow flowers collected in 3-10 pieces. on the tops of the stems, in the axils of the upper leaves. Gentian root is used in medicine as a choleretic agent that increases appetite, in the alcoholic beverage and beer industries to give a kind of bitterness to liquors and beer.

Gentian seven- part (G. septemfida) , up to 30 cm high, with erect stems covered with sessile leaves. The flowers are blue, up to 4 cm long, bloom in June, bloom up to 1.5 months.

Gentian Daurian (G. dahurica) , with ascending or straight stems up to 40 cm tall, linear-lanceolate leaves and large dark blue flowers blooming at the tops and in the axils of the upper leaves in July-August.

Growing and propagating gentian

Growing gentians of various types has its own characteristics.

In relation to light and humidity, plants are divided into:

  • shade-tolerant and moisture-loving, grow in the light shade of trees (separate cup, gusset);
  • light and moisture-loving, enduring light shading, inhabitants of alpine hills (seven-parted, tricolor);
  • light-loving, drought-resistant, shade-tolerant, for large alpine slides (Daurian, cruciform);
  • preferring the sun, calcareous soil, drought-resistant (gentian yellow);
  • photophilous, difficult to care for, require additional watering, limestone mulching (spring, stemless).

Most species can grow on sandy and loamy soils with any acidity. Special requirements for soil reaction in stemless gentian (slightly acidic), Chinese decorated (acidic), Dinaric, Delescluse (calcareous). All species do not tolerate stagnant water and require drainage or planting in rock gardens.

Plants are little affected by diseases and pests, suffer more from mechanical damage, and do not tolerate transplantation well. They are transplanted with a clod of earth, capturing the roots of undersized pillow-shaped species to a depth of 15-20 cm, of tall ones – by 25-30 cm, then they are abundantly watered and shaded. When planting with open roots, they cover with a mini-greenhouse, for example, with a plastic bottle.

Gentian is propagated by dividing bushes, seeds, cuttings and layering.

Division is carried out in spring or early autumn, it is better to use it for species growing in clumps. Gentians growing in rosettes are preferably propagated by seeds.

Gentian flower in the photo.

With seed reproduction, preliminary stratification is necessary, the terms and conditions for it are different for different species. To obtain a reliable result, it is better to sow in the ground before winter, using pots with a volume of 0.25 to 0.5 l . The earth is sifted and leveled, large seeds are lightly sprinkled, small ones are laid out on the surface. The pot is placed in a shady place, provide sufficient snow cover. In May-June, shoots will appear that shade, preventing the soil from drying out. You can take the plantings to the room where they will develop faster. Bloom in the third year.

Gentian Chinese decorated and related Asian species are easily propagated by layering, for which in the middle of summer the shoots are pinned to the soil and sprinkled with earth. By autumn, new plants are formed, which bloom the next year.

Some species are propagated by cuttings. They are harvested from the end of June to the end of August, rooted in a moist substrate, shading and using improvised greenhouses (a plastic bottle). Rooted in 3 weeks.

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