Gentiana lutea

Common Name: great yellow gentian 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Gentianaceae
Native Range: Central and southern Europe
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Wet Soil


Best grown in moist, rich, well-draining, sandy loams in full sun to part shade. Requires consistent moisture and does not tolerate drought or heavy soils. Prefers slightly alkaline soils. Hardy in Zones 4-8. Tends to do poorly in areas with hot, humid summer nights. Slow-growing, may take several years to flower.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Gentiana lutea, or great yellow gentian, is a large perennial herb native to the calcareous alpine meadows, moist grasslands, and open pastures of the central and southern European mountain ranges. These plants can reach 3' tall when in flower, and are typically solitary but can also grow in small clumps (1.5-2' across). Large, upright, basal leaves are lance-shaped to elliptic with deep, ribbed veins. The flowering stalk emerges in mid to late summer, with whorled clusters of yellow flowers on the axils of the upper, clasping leaves. The large taproot of this species (up to 3' long) has been used historically for medicinal purposes and as a bittering agent.

Genus name honors King Gentius of Illyria (reign c. 180-168) B.C., who was reputed to have discovered the medicinal virtues of the root of the yellow gentian or bitterwort (G. lutea) from which a tonic bitters is still made.

The specific epithet lutea comes from the Latin "luteus", meaning yellow, in reference to the coloration of the flowers.


No serious insect or disease problems. Gentians can be a difficult plant to grow well in St. Louis gardens in large part because of the hot and humid summer conditions.


Moist meadows, rain gardens, rock gardens, pond edges.