A group of hardy plants including herbaceous perennials, annuals, and biennials, many of which make a colourful contribution to rock gardens. Most garden species have blue, trumpet-like flowers.

Suitable site and soil. Most prefer a humus or peat-rich, gritty, well-drained soil that is either neutral or slightly acid. Some, however, can grow on quite limy soils. Plant in sun or partial shade in a rock garden or peat bed, although large species do well in mixed borders or among shrubs.

Cultivation and care. Plant out between early autumn and mid-spring. Keep the soil moist.

Propagation. Divide gentians in early spring or take cuttings from shoots in mid to late spring.

Recommended varieties. G. septemfida reaches 30cm – 12in high by 30cm – 12in wide. It has groups of blue flowers in mid to late summer. G. acaulis forms carpets of shiny green leaves ad bears intense blue blooms in early summer. It grows 8cm – 3in high by 45cm – 18in across. G. asclepiadea (willow gentian) likes partial shade and grows 60cm – 2ft high by 45cm – 18in wide. Its long stems give it a ‘weeping’ habit by flowering time in late summer. Its flowers are blue with white markings. G. lutea is an erect gentian with yellow flowers in mid to late summer. It grows up to 1.5m – 5ft high by 38cm – 15in wide. G. sino-ornata, 15cm – 6in high by 38cm – 15in wide, has blue flowers marked with yellow in autumn.

Pests and diseases. Usually no problems.


Careful choice of the plants to go alongside a gentian can enhance a rock garden. Pick a red or pink-flowering plant, such as Oxalis adenophylla, for a complementary colour arrangement.

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