What is Gentiana?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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Gentiana is a genus of flowering plants with an estimated 400 species, making it a very large genus. It is positioned in the Gentian family and members of this genus can be found all over the world. In addition to being abundant in nature, this genus is also propagated for use as an ornamental and for the production of food products and traditional medicines. People interested in growing Gentiana species can obtain seedlings and seeds from nurseries and may also be able to arrange trades with other gardeners.

Members of this genus produce a basal rosette of simple, opposite leaves and a single central stalk. The stalk is topped with one or more trumpet-shaped flowers. Although gentian blue is a common color variation, Gentiana species also produce white, purple, and pinkish flowers. Most of these herbaceous plants are perennial and they readily reseed in the natural environment.

These plants prefer alpine climates and can be found at high elevations in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Members of the Gentiana genus grow in scree, woodlands, and a variety of other habitats in the alpine climate. They are extremely rugged plants, a trait that makes them appealing to gardeners. Gardeners in alpine regions can cultivate them and they are also popular in dry or harsh climates outside the alpine region.


Preferring neutral to acidic soil, Gentiana species will grow in full sun to partial shade in soils ranging from loamy to sandy, as long as the soil is well drained. These plants are drought tolerant and frost hardy. While the growth will die back in the fall and winter months, it should return in the spring. Members of this genus are ideally suited to massed plantings and borders. Because they grow relatively low to the ground, it is not advisable to use them as background plantings, as they may disappear around taller or showier plants.

Gentiana species are excellent for rock gardens, as well as container gardening. They are best propagated from seed. Gardeners can either allow plants to reseed themselves, or collect the seeds and store them in a cool, dry place until they can be planted in the following spring. Succulents and other alpine plants can be good companion plantings, as they are able to withstand the same rugged conditions these plants thrive in. Gentiana products are used in the manufacturing of bitters and tonics, and some species have been historically used by indigenous people in the preparation of medicines.



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