Eustoma: care and varieties (prairie gentian)

Eustoma: care and varieties (prairie gentian)


Eustoma describes the genus of the prairie gentians with two to three species, but the Latin name is largely unknown. The frequently cultivated large-flowered prairie gentian is more widespread under the name Lisianthus russelianum. This name is now considered out of date for the popular cut flower.

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Eustoma grandiflorum is native to the desert regions and prairies in America. Their area extends from Mexico over Texas to Colorado and Nebraska. Their triumphal march within Europe began at the beginning of the 19th century. It belongs to the gentian family. Eustoma is the Greek expression for “beautiful mouth”.


Eustoma species grow as herbaceous plants that are one to two years old. They reach heights of growth between 15 and 60 centimeters. The habit is upright and loosely bushy. Prairie gentians grow clumpy and develop tap roots that reach deep into the earth, which draw nutrients and water from the deeper layers. The root system is extremely sensitive to disturbances.


Prairie gentians develop dark green to blue-green leaves that appear slightly fleshy. The lanceolate leaves are arranged opposite one another on the stem. They reach a length between eight and ten centimeters.


The plants develop single bell-shaped flowers that grow on 40 to 60 centimeter long flower stalks. Some species are double-flowered and develop two flowers on one stem. The flowers are up to two centimeters in size. Their color palette is broad. Prairie gentians bloom in pink, purple, blue, or white. Some species have two-colored flowers. Occasionally crimson or yellow specimens appear. The flowering period of the ornamental plants extends from July to August. Under optimal conditions, the plants bloom well into September.


After the flowering period, prairie gentians form capsule fruits, which belong to the group of scattered fruits. As soon as they are mature, they open along pre-formed structures and scatter the seeds when the wind moves the flower stems. They fall to the ground and are washed away with the rain or spread by the wind. The seeds are microscopic and can be seen as dust with the naked eye.

Seed development

The seeds germinate very quickly under high temperatures. If the thermometer rises above 30 degrees Celsius, the seedlings develop into biennial plants. A basal rosette of leaves grows in the first year. The plants only bloom in the second year. The weather also plays a role in this development. If the winter months are rainy and cool, eustoma species grow as annual plants.


In the past, species of eustoma were grown to be used as cut flowers. The exotic beauties are now conquering window sills and living spaces as container plants. Its flowers are extremely decorative. Although the cultivated species are only annual and are therefore kept for one season, a two-year cultivation is possible with good care.

The delicate flowers stand for charisma, appreciation and gratitude. That is why the plants are often used as cut flowers for bouquets. You can create a bushy still life with different plants. Ilex, amarine and sea lavender go well with the prairie gentian.

Diverse uses:

  • in bouquets
  • in planters for indoor greening
  • in larger tubs for the winter garden


Eustoma species are classified as non-toxic. There is no known evidence of symptoms of poisoning in pets or children. However, you should point out to children that not every beautiful-looking flower should be consumed. Excessive amounts can irritate the gastrointestinal tract.


As plants in the deserts and prairies, Eustoma species prefer locations in full sun. They don't have any problems with hot temperatures. Indoor plants can be grown in a shady place. They also thrive at normal room temperature.


Prairie gentians require well-drained soil with a pH value between 6.5 and 7.0. If the substrate falls below this value, there is a risk of zinc poisoning. The plants can no longer grow well and wither. The plants like a weakly acidic to neutral environment. A loamy soil with a high proportion of humus is ideal.


It makes sense to multiply these plants, otherwise you will only enjoy the beauty for one season. You can buy prairie gentian seeds in specialist shops. It is easier to collect the fruit capsules as soon as they have dried out. Propagation of cuttings is also possible.


Prairie gentians can be successfully propagated from cuttings. Cut a shoot into several pieces of at least two inches. Each cutting should have a pair of leaves for the metabolism to work. Put this in a nutrient-poor growing medium (9.05 € at Amazon *) and place the pot in a bright and warm place. The floor temperature should not drop below 20 degrees Celsius. Keep the substrate moist regularly, so that the root formation is stimulated.


Between October and March you can sow the seeds you have collected yourself and grow new plants. Fill a planter with nutrient-poor potting soil. An excess of nutrient causes the shoots to shoot up and become unstable. The taproot can develop well in poor substrate and form numerous fine roots, which draw nutrients from the substrate. The pH value is ideally between 6 and 6.5.

The seeds are light germs and should only be lightly covered with soil. You can also leave the seeds free. Direct sunlight does not affect the seeds. The desert plants have adapted their seeds to the hot conditions so that they do not dry out as quickly.

After a few weeks, the seeds will begin to germinate. This development happens faster, the warmer the temperature. Make sure the floor temperature is between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. Keep the substrate constantly moist. A high level of humidity is not absolutely necessary, as the conditions in the original habitats are predominantly dry during the growing season. With a foil or an inverted glass over the cultivation vessel, you ensure that the substrate dries out more slowly.

In the pot

In Europe, prairie gentians are only grown as potted plants. Since the predominantly annual plants need warm temperatures, they perish quickly in the open. Use a pot with a drainage hole and cover the bottom with a layer of expanded clay (€ 17.50 on Amazon *) or potsherds, which ensures optimal water drainage. The pot should be deep enough for the taproots to develop optimally.


The desert beauty likes to spend the summer on the balcony. Put the pot outside when there is no more frost at night. If you have previously grown the plant on the windowsill, it should be carefully accustomed to the sunlight that is not filtered through window glass. A rain-protected location with morning and evening sun is ideal for acclimatization. The plant needs at least four hours of sunshine a day.

In the greenhouse

Eustoma varieties are grown in the greenhouse, as warm temperatures can be guaranteed here. This cultivation causes the plants to develop long flower stems. Such specimens have a particularly beautiful appearance. When grown in full sun, prairie gentians grow compact and form short flower stems.

To water

Watering the Eustoma species requires a sure instinct, because this is where most mistakes happen. The substrate should be kept evenly moist. Irregular watering and strong fluctuations in the moisture balance of the soil cause problems for the plant. It does not tolerate waterlogging. If water collects in the coaster, it should be thrown away immediately. If it is left for longer than two days, the roots can rot. A dry substrate is equally stressful for the plant. It withers once the roots dry out completely.


Depending on the abundance of flowers, prairie gentians require more or less nutrients. You can give the plants a liquid fertilizer via the irrigation water once or twice a week. A dosage in half the concentration is optimal to cover the nutritional requirements. Fertilization takes place between April and September. This measure is not necessary if you have planted the plant in fresh substrate after purchasing it.

To cut

You can regularly remove dead flower stems throughout the growth phase so that the plant can fully invest its energy in developing new flowers. Cut off any yellowed parts of the plant to preserve the beauty of your prairie gentian. You do not need scissors for this maintenance measure. The withered flowers and leaves can be clipped off with your fingernail.


It is not necessary to repot the prairie gentian. As a seasonal plant, most of the varieties on offer only grow for one year. If you take good care of your plant over the winter, you can treat it to fresh soil by transplanting it.


Eustoma species are not hardy. It is possible to overwinter in a light and frost-free place. In winter quarters, temperatures should be between ten and 15 degrees Celsius. Continue to ensure regular watering. The watering quantities are more economical during the wintering phase. When the plant is dormant, it does not need additional fertilization.


Occasionally prairie gentians are attacked by thrips. They settle on leaf surfaces and flowers with predominantly light colors and suck the sap from the veins. You can recognize an infestation by finely speckled spots on the parts of the plant, which shimmer silvery. If you take a closer look, you can spot tiny dots of feces. If the plant is badly infested, the leaves and flowers roll up and tend to turn brown.

The pests prefer to spread under dry conditions. Increasing the humidity or spraying the affected areas kills the pests and also damages the plant. It is better to use predatory mites to control thrispene on your prairie gentian.

Fungal attack

Damp and cool conditions offer fungal spores an ideal environment in that they spread en masse on the plants.


Waterlogging causes the roots to rot. Fungi of the genus Phytophtora spread at the roots, causing considerable damage. The plants let their leaves and flowers hang limply until they eventually die off. If your plant is affected, you should completely dispose of it with household waste. Treatment is difficult and does not make much sense with annual plants.

Gray mold

The fungal pores of the genus Botrytis often attack the stem base of weakened plants that are grown in greenhouses. The spores can ideally spread due to high humidity and insufficient air circulation. They damage the plant tissue, so that the vitality is negatively affected. You can prevent infestation with the right care.

How to prevent a fungal attack:

  • make sure there is good ventilation
  • Water the plant sparingly but regularly
  • Improve substrate permeability with loose material
  • Drain excess water from the coaster
  • refrain from cultivation in a damp greenhouse

Brown spots

Occasionally, brown spots appear on the leaves. They can be a sign of sunburn. If the plants are suddenly placed from the windowsill in the blazing sun on the balcony or terrace, the leaves cannot get used to the direct radiation. In the room, the light was filtered through the window pane so that the radiation could not cause any damage.

Brown spots can no longer be removed. Put the plant in a shady spot for some time and remove the stained leaves.

Does not bloom

Eustoma species are extremely sensitive when their root ball dries out. Under these circumstances, they shed existing flowers and fresh buds. In their original distribution areas, the growing seasons are spread over spring and autumn. They are interrupted by the summer drought and winter cold. The loss of flowers and buds in conditions that are too dry is a natural adaptation.

If your eustoma's flower buds do not open shortly after purchase, it may be due to an incorrect location. If the plant is too dark, it will not develop any flowers. Place the pot in a bright place with direct sunlight. The plant will recover quickly and open its flowers.


When you have successfully grown a prairie gentian from seeds or cuttings, you can enjoy the beauty of the plant for another year. In the early growth phase, cut off the tip of the shoot so that branches form just below the cut. Let them grow and after a short time separate the tips again. In this way the prairie gentian grows bushy.


  • Adom : flowers purple-red or white and reddish tapering.
  • Advantage : Early flowering variety with thick flower stalks. Suitable for particularly high temperatures. Double flowers in yellow, green-white, pink, lavender or cherry.
  • Mazurka : Uniform growth with dense branches. Flowers white or blue, slightly fringed petals, flowers medium-sized.
  • Little Summer : Multi-flowered varieties in white, creamy white or orange. Flowers small and semi-double with firm petals.
  • Papillon : small-flowered varieties, slow growing. Suitable for culture in very warm locations. Blooming a light pink.