About Downy Gentian: This native North American flower appears nearly identical to the traditional European gentian. It can tolerate drought better than most flowers of this type, and can occasionally be found in rocky soil or prairie areas. The Gentiana genus was named after King Gentius, an ancient ruler of the kingdom of Illyria who, according to legend, benefited from the medicinal effects of this family of plants. The species name “puberulenta” comes from the Latin word for “downy,” indicating the slightly fuzzy texture of parts of the plant.
Downy Gentian Germination: To break this seed’s dormancy, mix the seed with moist sand and store it in the refrigerator for 60-90 days before planting. Scatter the seed on the surface of the soil, then press it in lightly. Keep the soil moist, but water carefully to avoid disturbing the seed; keep the soil temperature at about 70 degrees F. Germination may be slow and irregular, but should begin to occur within 4 weeks. Transplant two seedlings each in individual pots, handling very carefully to prevent breaking the hair-like roots.
Growing Downy Gentian Seeds: Keep the seedlings moist as they develop, which will happen very slowly. In their first year, the seedlings may only develop several leaves. Though the seedlings should be overwintered indoors before transplanting, they will need very careful attention since they do not appreciate root disturbance. They must be regularly watered, though they can tolerate dry soil. Full bloom may not occur until their third or fourth season of growth. This plant does not appreciate extreme heat or drought, though it is cold hardy and grows best in light or sandy soil that drains well. This flower attracts many types of bees.
Harvesting Downy Gentian: For fresh flowers, cut long stems of flowers that have just opened and place them in water immediately; strip the leaves that will fall below the water.
Saving Downy Gentian Seeds: After blooming, the flowers develop into long capsules that split to reveal the ripe seed. Cut them from the stem or simply shake the entire plant over a container to remove the fine, tiny oval seeds. Germination rates will be best if the seed is planted immediately, but it will remain viable for several years if stored properly. Store the seed in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Downy Gentian Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Prairie Gentian Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Fall Height: 10-12 inches Spacing: 12-15 inches Light: Full Sun to Part Shade Soil Moisture: Medium to Dry USDA Zone: 3a-8b Seeds Per Oz: 435,000 Produces a somewhat downy plant with narrow 2-3” leaves and 2” purple, bell-shaped flowers with five pointed petals.