Great yellow gentian – planting, care and tips

Great yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea)
Great yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea)

With its bitter substances, the great yellow gentian is a well-known plant in naturopathy. But also in the garden the wild perennial cuts a great figure.

Profile of great yellow gentian:

Scientific name: Gentiana lutea

Plant family: gentian family (Gentianaceae)

Other names: –

Sowing time: autumn

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: June to August

Harvest time: root in spring or autumn

Location: sunny

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, calcipholous, moderately nutritious, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: cold, menstruation, digestion

Use in: flower beds, flower meadows, single position, group planting, lawns, apothecary garden, farmer garden, flower garden, natural garden, rock garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-29 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of great yellow gentian

Plant order, origin and occurrence of great yellow gentian

The great yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea) is a species native to the European mountains from the genus Gentiana. It grows at heights of up to 2,500 meters (8,200 ft). Like its well-known purple-colored siblings, the great yellow gentian belongs to the gentian family (Gentianaceae), which have a long tradition in naturopathy. The plant is under conservation and must not be picked in the wild.

Characteristics of great yellow gentian


The great yellow gentian has a completely different growth form than the well-known dark purple gentian species. Gentiana lutea grows very slowly, but grows between 50 and 150 centimeters (20 and 60 in) in height over the years. A long stem grows from a basal leaf rosette, on which flowers and bracts emerge in up to six sections. Great yellow gentian grows extremely vigorously, slightly hairy, persistent and herbaceous and becomes with about 50 years of lifetime quite old. The great yellow gentian forms a long main root and a rhizome several centimeters thick.

Attention: If the great yellow gentian does not bloom, there is a slight risk of confusion with the false helleborine (Veratrum album), which has a very similar leaf structure but is highly toxic! The two plants can be clearly distinguished on the basis of their roots: that of the gentian is yellow on the inside and that of the false helleborine is white.


The leaves of the medicinal plant are gray-green. They grow basal sessile as a leaf rosette. On the plant stem there are decussate, sessile leaves above. The leaves of the yellow gentian grow up to 30 centimeters (12 in) long and 15 centimeters (6 in) wide and have an egg-shaped to elliptical, pointed shape. The five to seven leaf nerves emerge vigorously and bend the leaf upwards towards the tip. During heavy downpours, the water collects in it like in a goblet.


Between June and August the eponymous flowers develop in the leaf axils and there are always three to ten together in cymes. The simply designed, five-part, nectar-bearing disc flowers are hermaphrodite and usually only appear from the tenth year of life. Great yellow gentian is self-pollinating, but insects are happy to help pollinate the plant.


Between September and October, the approximately 6 centimeters (2.4 in) long, upright capsule fruits ripen. Each fruit contains up to 100 flat-elliptical, brownish-colored seeds, each of which is surrounded by a narrow wing. After opening, thousands of gentian seeds spread over long distances as gliders.

Flower of great yellow gentian
Flower of great yellow gentian

Great yellow gentian – cultivation and care


When choosing a location, make sure that the great yellow gentian can develop an arm-thick rhizome over the years and develop a meter-long taproot. The great yellow gentian is sensitive to transplanting, so the chosen planting location should be kept as far as possible. The plant prefers a sunny, but rather cool location, ideally in a high position.


As a mountain plant, the great yellow gentian is calcipholous and therefore prefers calcareous soil, but it also thrives in normal garden soil. In order to be able to develop its strong roots, the soil should be as stone-free, loose and deep as possible. Waterlogging and bog soil are unsuitable for the great yellow gentian. The pH of the soil should be as neutral as possible and not more acidic than 6.5.


The gentian can be planted in the garden in spring or autumn. Put great yellow gentian in small groups with a planting distance of about 50 centimeters (20 in). For young plants, the use of weed fleece is recommended to prevent the slow-growing plants from overgrowing.


The great yellow gentian does not tolerate waterlogging well, so you should only water sparingly and always keep the soil a little bit moist.


In autumn, you can carefully mix some humus into the soil so that the plant grows stronger.


The great yellow gentian can be propagated by seeds, but the plant can take many years to mature and its growth is extremely low in the first few months. It is therefore advisable to purchase young plants from specialist dealers. Digging up wild plants is not allowed.

It is best to sow the seeds in autumn, because the great yellow gentian takes a long time to germinate. You can either plant the seeds directly in the bed or grow them into young plants in a pot.

Since the great yellow gentian thrives best when its roots can develop when its left alone, one should avoid division.


Due to the slow growth, weeds should always be thoroughly but carefully weeded around young gentian plants. In autumn the gentian gets a load of compost.

Diseases and pests

In warm, humid weather, yellow-brown spots can appear on the tips of the leaves. This is a sign of leaf spot disease. Stem rot is also a problem in warm and damp weather. Gentian rust is triggered by the mushroom Puccinia gentianae, which is shown by brown pustules on the leaves. As the fungus is very resistant to chemical sprays, all affected parts of the plant and possibly whole plants should be removed as early as possible in order to limit the spread. Young plants are sometimes affected by gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) in damp weather. Yellow, pale leaves, especially in young plants, indicate chlorosis. Snails, thrips and snake larvae (tipola) play a role in animal pests.


Great yellow gentian is hardy down to -29 °C / -15 °F.


Wild gentian must not be harvested because the gentian is protected.

Only gentians from our own garden can be harvested.

To do this, wait until the gentian plant is large and strong. This can take several years, about ten years alone until the first flowering.

The root is harvested in autumn after flowering or in spring before new leaves sprout. The root in deep soil can weigh up to four kilos (8 lbs). In some cases it is up to one meter (40 in) long.

After harvesting, cut the roots lengthways and hang them on a thread in a dry, warm place to dry.

As an alternative to drying, the fresh gentian root can also be used to prepare a tincture.

Use or great yellow gentian

In the garden

As a native wild perennial, the great yellow gentian is a welcome guest, particularly in near-natural gardens or rock gardens. In combination with violet asters, pasque flowers of lavender, the yellow gentian adds color to the bed.

As a medicinal herb

The main effect of the great yellow gentian is based on the bitter substances that is contained in the roots. They make the gentian root a powerful gastric remedy that aids digestion.

You can drink gentian as tea or as a tincture.

Preparation of a great yellow gentian tea

The dried pieces of the root can be prepared as an infusion. Pour half a teaspoon of gentian root with a cup of boiling water and let the tea steep for five to ten minutes.

Or you can prepare the gentian tea as a cold extract. To do this, pour half a teaspoon of gentian root with cold water and let it steep for seven to eight hours. Then strain and gently heat to drinking warmth.

Preparation of a great yellow gentian tincture

For the tincture, pour the minced gentian roots with double grain or wine spirit and let the mixture stand in a sealed glass for two to six weeks. Then strain and take ten to twenty drops three times a day before meals.

Great yellow gentian for digestion

Digestion is the main area of application for the gentian. The formation of gastric juices is stimulated by the bitter substances. Appetite is stimulated and heartburn is alleviated. Gentian also has a slight laxative effect and can thus clear constipation.

Other areas of application

In addition to strengthening digestion, folk medicine also uses the gentian to prevent colds.

It also promotes menstruation.

In the past, gentian was also used against fainting and cold hands and feet.


The gentian should not be used if you have high blood pressure.

The gentian should also be avoided in the first phase of pregnancy.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

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