There are a lot of remarkable characters amongst the perennials, but the Garden Plant of the Month for August is very special. With its intense blue colouring and beautiful bell-shaped flowers, Gentian (Gentiana) reminds us of its natural home in Alpine meadows. The Gentian range has developed considerably, and there are now white, pink, blue and bicoloured varieties. A beautiful perennial to use in pots or in rockeries or borders. It will certainly catch the eye as is pretty as a picture!
The current Gentian range offers compact growth and rich continued flowering. These plants look their best between July and October. The colour blue in particular has been extensively developed in the Gentian range. There are sky blue, pale and dark blue and indigo varieties. The Gentian originates from the temperate mountain regions in the northern hemisphere and the Andes. The name Gentian derives from Gentius, King of Illyria (former Yugoslavia) who is said to have discovered the healing properties attributed to Gentian, such as strengthening the digestive and immune systems and the ability to reduce bile.
Caring for Gentians
Gentian likes the spot with full sun to partial shade. The plant does have special requirements with regard to the soil. Moisture-retaining, somewhat poor soil is important, since that’s what the plant has in the mountains where it grows. Many species also require somewhat chalky and well-draining soil. It’s easy to make a mixture of sand, clay, potting soil and gravel to use for Gentians in pots. In autumn and winter make sure that the soil is not saturated with water when the frost comes. You should therefore cover Gentians, but make sure that the soil is well-ventilated.
Tips for keeping Gentains
The best thing is to do nothing! Gentains are very hardy, and will die back above ground and hibernate below ground. It’s important to leave the plant alone to keep it healthy and lavishly flowering. So don’t divide or replant it, but leave it where it is. Give the plant some fertiliser in the spring to promote flowering and you’ll be able enjoy these remarkable plants for years.
More information about Gentian and other garden plants can be found at Thejoyofplants.co.uk.