Plant Type
Sunlight Amount



A North American native, gentian bears showy clusters of blossoms at the top of the plant in shades of white, purple, and sometimes nearly blue. The tubular flowers, which resemble large, closed buds, debut in midsummer and continue coloring the garden through autumn. Gentian is pollinated by insects, such as bumblebees, that push their way into those tight buds. In its native environment this wildflower grows well in moist woodland areas near ponds and streams.

genus name
  • Gentiana spp.
  • Part Sun
plant type
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 1 to 2 feet
flower color
foliage color
season features
special features
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7

Garden Plans For Gentian

What to Pair With Gentian

Gentian pairs well with other shade-loving plants that thrive in moist soil. Add it to a shaded rock garden where it will provide both height and color. Plant it alongside astilbe, coral bells (Heuchera 'Americana'), deadnettle (Lamium), hosta, and lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) in a traditional shade garden. Native plant partners include lead plant (Amorpha canescens), milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginiana).

Growing Gentian

Gentian grows best in moist, rich, cool, well-drained soil and part shade. It thrives in planting locations that receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Because this wildflower grows best in cool summer conditions, it often struggles in areas south of Zone 7. When planted in its preferred growing conditions, gentian will spread to form a colony of long-lived plants.

Gentian is tough to start from seed, because germination is erratic at best. You may be better off transplanting potted specimens into your garden. Nursery-grown transplants are sometimes difficult to find, so check with local nurseries that specialize in native plants. Water the transplanted gentian plants regularly for the first growing season to promote a strong, deep root system. Cover the soil around the plants with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to prevent soil-moisture loss.

More Varieties of Gentian

Bottle gentian

Gentiana andrewsii carries pairs of dark green oblong leaves on stems that may reach 2 feet tall. The flowers are borne in clusters at the tops of the stems. They are bottle-shape, never open, and are mostly dark blue. Zones 3-7

Plant Gentian With:

Basket-of-gold is one of those plants that loves to grow in the least likely of place -- cracks between paving stones, the edge of gravel paths and patios, rocky outcroppings, between the stacked stones of a retaining wall, and more. It loves a baked spot with excellent drainage but will struggle in hot, humid areas and tends not to do well in the South.But where it does well, it's a showstopper. It will reseed prolifically in little cracks, filling an area each spring with dazzling neon yellows. After it finishes blooming, the grayish-green foliage makes an attractive mat in the perennial garden.

This native perennial gets its name from the shape of its unusual flowers, which resemble the heads of snapping turtles. It's a good choice for heavy, wet soils and spreads to form dense colonies of upright stems bearing pink, rose, or white flowers from late summer into fall. It grows best in some shade, but tolerates full sun with adequate moisture.

Refined and elegant, blue oatgrass adapts easily and fits equally well in formal or informal gardens. Its mound of grassy gray-blue leaves arches gracefully throughout the season. In fall, panicles of brownish spikelets reach for the sky well above the foliage.