Gentianopsis procera, Smaller Fringed Gentian - 2 (3)

by Kristl Walek

Synonyms: Gentianopsis virgata; Gentiana procera; Gentiana crinita var. browniana; Gentianella crinita ssp. procera

Other Common Names: lesser fringed gentian; Great Plains fringed gentian
Native Range: Manitoba, Ontario, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin

The smaller fringed gentian is one of our most beautiful natives, found in eastern and Midwestern North America. A self-perpetuating biennial, the plant grows to 18 inches (40 cm) with narrow, pointed foliage. The most striking feature is the plant’s fringed blue flowers, which are upward facing, and open in the sun and close at night or on overcast days. The plant blooms in very late summer into fall. Although the smaller fringed gentian can be challenging to establish in the home garden, it is worth the effort!

* Grows best in moist, fertile soil in full sun to dappled shade. In the wild, it flourishes in low, open parts of deciduous woods or along their fringes, in quasi-wet meadows, along stream banks and lake shores, old moist pastures or roadside ditches, usually in full sun. It is not a woodland species, except where woods have been heavily thinned and the soil disturbed.

*This beautiful wildflower is somewhat demanding in its requirements. The soil type is immaterial--it grows in alkaline, neutral or acidic conditions. However, the soil should be high in humus, preferably sandy and decidedly moist.

*Produces rosettes the first growing season, then flowers the second. A biennial, the plant dies after the second year. If conditions are to their liking, they will self-sow and become established in the garden. It is advisable, nevertheless, to plant them the first two years in succession in order to produce bloom every year.

*Seeds of this late-flowering species are mature from September to November. Some seedheads harbour worms that destroy the seeds. Sow fresh seed as soon as it is ripe either directly where plants are to grow or in flats or pots. Keep these outdoors over winter or place in a cold frame. Germination is normally average to good after the cold conditioning, with 50-75 percent rates in late spring to early summer.

*The tiny first-year rosettes are intolerant of heavy competition. Transplant very carefully into moist soil when the small plants are no bigger than a quarter. Give them a space to themselves where they can get properly established without interference from neighbours. Once settled into the garden, allow them to self-sow and mingle with the neighbours they are able to live with, rather than imposing companions upon them.

 *Wet meadow conditions are often difficult to replicate in the garden. It may be advisable to do your initial planting of Gentianopsis procera at the sunny periphery of your shade or woodland garden, where consistent moisture may be more readily available to the plants as they become established. 

 Kristl Walek is the owner of Gardens North, a nursery 25 km south of Ottawa, Ontario, that specializes in perennial and woody seed hardy for cold-climate gardens. Gardens North sells seeds of Gentianopsis procera, collected in Rideau Township, Ontario. For more information, contact Gardens North, 5984 Third Line Road North, North Gower, Ontario K0A 2T0; (613) 489-0065; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Catalogue is $4.00.

Cultivation Native Plants to Know Gentianopsis procera, Smaller Fringed Gentian - 2 (3)