by Bart Moerland
Is it the striking blue color? ... I think so… on the plant markets where we sell our plants, it’s obvious to see that Gentians in full bloom are sold before the crate with gentians can hit the booth.
If you want to sell plants to people who are ‘not specialized ‘in Alpines, you need flowers… primulas… lewisias… but as said… Gentians are the best and even people who are not into ‘Alpine Gardening’, know them by name, the same goes for ‘Leontopodium’, the famous mountain plant, which is also known under the native German name ‘Edelweiss’.
But we are now talking about Gentians. Nowadays you can often buy them in garden-centers, staring at you in full bloom,… pick me up… take me home… but is it wise? Can they survive in an ordinary garden, in ordinary ground?
Oh, yah, they can, I have seen acaulis plants, growing and flowering for years in ordinary, not specially prepared soils, and normal gentiana acaulis, or gentiana sino-ornata will feel and do alright for a couple of years. However, they almost always die back after two or three seasons, especially in wet winters. You can say: that’s enough for me, they have done their job very well and we will buy some new or other flowering plants. And that is alright, of course.
But, after all, you ‘clicked’ in on this Gentian website of Herman, and so I suppose you’re interested in Gentians, or grow them already. Maybe you are even an expert grower of Gentians with a pleasant collection in the rock garden.
And for those people we made this article. Whether you are a beginner or consider yourself an expert, it’s always interesting to know how other people do it.
In this article, gentians in the nursery trade, we will not tell you how to grow gentians, what is the best way to grow them, etc, etc,…but how WE grow them… and that is a big difference .
Growing Gentians in pots.
There is a big difference between growing them in pots or in the open garden, simply because Gentians have somewhat ‘thicker’, ’fleshy’ roots, and like them to ‘run’ freely into the soil.
As you can understand, they don’t like being caught in a container, at all.
Okay, you can give them some humus rich soil with a lot of nutrients and they seem to do well… for a while.
However, as soon as the first winter peaks around the corner of the Gentians container….they will die back…..blown up, and that’s a problem for us, nurserymen, because it takes at least two years to grow a 9 cm container of gentians, when you do it the right way.
We just grow the ‘lower’ gentians, because we are a specialized Alpine nursery and 90% of our customers are alpine garden lovers, so this article is not for-let’s say-gentians more than 30 cm height.
Back to the nutrients, back to the soil…. We use some ordinary potting-soil, which is the same you can buy at the garden centre, but please take care it’s a medium without added nutrients.
We mix this soil with 20% perlite and 40% grit (5 to 20mm),so the air and the water can flow freely through the soil. And that is very important for Gentians. We prefer this mixture because it’s better for the root development and water can be given if necessary. But if they stay too wet, in autumn and winter, they rot away easily, so that’s another reason why we grow our Gentians in a medium which has a good and fast drainage like Alpines.
During the winter-months, the pots are standing in a somewhat sheltered area where the wind and some snow or rain can ‘touch’ them. In our nursery they are standing under the selling tables and we noticed that this is a perfect spot during winter-times.
When spring comes we take care that the plants get enough water, because they develop quickly when the growing season starts. When the days get sunnier and warmer, make sure the temperatures are not too high. The spot where your plants in pots are standing must have shading possibilities and always take care they are moist enough.
That’s in general how we grow our plants and the circumstances they are growing under. In the next paragraph, we will tell you, when and how to increase their number, and something about the individual plants we grow.
Sun Valley NurseryBart and Hannelore Moerland
7442 VK Nijverdal
The Netherlands 0031 (0)548613316