The deep blue flowers of the marsh gentian are worth all the effort it takes to establish the native wild shrub permanently in the garden.
Profile of marsh gentian:
Scientific name: Gentiana pneumonanthe
Plant family: gentian family (Gentianaceae)
Other names: –
Sowing time: autumn
Planting time: spring or autumn
Flowering period: June to September
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, low in nutrients
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower meadows, pond planting, flower garden, natural garden, water garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4 (-32 °C / -25 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of marsh gentian
Plant order, origin and occurrence of marsh gentian
The marsh gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe) is originally widespread in large parts of Europe from the lowlands to alpine altitudes and extends its natural range to the Caucasus. As a settler of nutrient-poor and alternately humid wet meadows and fen meadows, it is, however, highly endangered with the decline of these habitats due to intensification of agriculture. Like all gentian species native to Germany, it is particularly protected by the Federal Ordinance on the Protection of Species. In the neighboring countries of Austria and Switzerland, the wild species is also considered highly endangered and is part of various reintroduction and protection projects. The marsh gentian belongs to the gentian family (Gentianaceae) and requires a special location in the garden that corresponds to its natural occurrence. Its botanical species name “pneumonanthe” means “lung blossom” and provides an indication of the earlier use of its roots and leaves as a medicinal plant for lung diseases.
Characteristics of marsh gentian
The marsh gentian is a deciduous perennial that grows in clusters and reaches a height of 15 to 40 centimeters (6 to 16 in). On nitrogen-rich soils, it can also reach a height of 100 centimeters (40 in). Its flower stems remain unbranched.
A characteristic feature of the plant is the absence of a basal leaf rosette. Its leaves are linear-lanceolate, not wider than one centimeter (0.4 in) and often slightly curled at the edges.
The three to five centimeter long flowers of the marsh gentian have a striking deep blue color, which is unique to gentians. The narrow, bell-shaped crown is characterized by long, narrow tips. Inside the flower, green dotted stripes can be seen. There are always several blooms at the top of the leaves. Depending on the location, the flowering time is between June and September. The plant needs warmth: its buds only begin to open at a temperature of 19 °C / 66 °F, and it needs at least 25 °C / 77 °F to fully open the flower.
Like all gentians, the marsh gentian also forms capsule fruits, which contain numerous, unwinged seeds.
Marsh gentian – cultivation and care
Gentiana pneumonanthe absolutely needs a full sunny place in the garden, which must not be too exposed to cold.
If you want to plant the marsh gentian in your garden, you need a moist soil low in nutrients, ideally permeable loamy soil or humus sandy soil. With regard to soil reaction, the wild gentian is tolerant and can cope with both alkaline and acidic soils.
Potted plants are best placed in spring or autumn at the desired location. The marsh gentian thrives best in small groups of at least three plants. The recommended planting distance is 20 centimeters (8 in); if used in a large area, 12 to 15 specimens per square meter (10 sq ft) should be planted.
At a suitable location, the marsh gentian is completely easy to care for. It is important that the soil is always moist and that it is not harassed by strong neighboring plants.
One can try to propagate Gentiana pneumonanthe by sowing, but this is not always a successful method. The seeds are cold germinators and light germinators. Experiments have shown that pre-germination in a water glass increases the success of the cultivation and can even replace the effect of cold.
Diseases and pests
Unfortunately, snails love the marsh gentian very much.
Marsh gentian is hardy down to-32 °C / -25 °F.
Use in the garden
Anyone wishing to establish the wild perennial marsh gentian, which is highly endangered in nature, in the garden must meet its special requirements regarding the location. Permanently fresh to wet meadow areas are well suited, but these must be extremely low in nitrogen. To prevent a gradual accumulation of nutrients, the cuttings from these meadows must be removed after mowing. With a good nutrient supply, the marsh gentian would be overgrown by more competitive neighbors within a very short time. It is also possible to cultivate it in a sunny open area on moist soil. The perennial can thrive surprisingly well on the damp edge of a garden pond or stream, provided that it is not harassed by strong neighbors. Used in groups, the long-distance effect of its deep blue gentian flowers is unique.
Occasionally a variety Gentiana pneumonanthe var. alba is reported to occur in nature, which produces pure white flowers.