For a flower with an unusual shape, try bottle gentian. The common name gives you an idea of what to expect. Yes, the flowers look like little bottles or large buds about to open. They are borne in clusters at the top of the stem above a whorl of leaves but sometimes arise in the axils of the upper leaves. Each plant consists of several stems that grow from a single tap root. A native of wet meadows, prairies, and open woods of the northeast and northern mid-west, bottle gentian also grows well in average soil moisture in sun to filtered light. When happy, it will slowly spread and naturalize.

Type: Native perennial

Bloom: Blue to violet bottle-shaped flowers are produced in clusters at the tops of stems in late and summer and fall.

Foliage: Sessile, opposite, broadly lanceolate or ovate leaves 2” wide and 4 1.2” long have smooth margins and parallel venation.

Size: 1-2’ H x .5” W

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Fertile, moist to normal

Hardiness: Zones 4-9

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed (germination erratic and seedling mortality may be high); division in spring

Companion plants: Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca), goldenrods, asters, toad lilies (Tricyrtis spp.), variegatred sedges (Carex spp.).

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By Karen