How to Grow and Care for Lisianthus

How to plant and Grow Lisianthus (eustoma, Prairie gentian, Texas bluebell)

When to plant: spring (seed), spring/summer (potted plants)

What “eustoma,” the Greek name, means: “eu” means “beautiful” and “stoma”  means “mouth.” The second Greek name “lysianthus,” may seem confusing. “Anthos” means flower, and “lysis” means “dissolution.” Not in the sense of “dissolving,” but in a more libertine sense: “profligacy,” “lustfulness,” licentiousness,” “excess,” “abandonment.” In the language of flower, lysianthus symbolizes appreciation.

When it blooms: spring/summer

Where to plant it: full sun in alkaline soil (clay, not sandy soil)

How to Plant and Care for Lisianthus

Here is the short answer.

Don’t try it. Buy the potted plants instead and stick them in the ground. Lisianthus come in purple, and dark purple as the one at top, called Roseanne Black, from Burpee, white and pink, and are beautiful even in tight bud. If you prune them back to a node when you cut flowers you will get almost continuous flowering, if they are in the right place. They make beautiful bouquets.

As for growing from seed, even trained nursery growers can make mistakes. The seeds are very difficult and will germinate only with sunlight.

According to Burpee:

which sells seeds for lisianthus including a Magenta lisianthus from Burpee called Petunia, above, a Spellbound wine red hybrid, these are something to consider when planting seeds:

Eustoma prefers a warm, moist and sunny environment. More drought, not wet. The optimum temperature for growth is 15-28°C, and the temperature at night cannot be lower than 12°C. The water requirement is strict, high moist, but excessive water is also detrimental to the growth of the roots. If the water supply is insufficient, the stems and leaves grow weakly and flower early. The response to light is more sensitive, long daylight helps the stem and leaf growth and flower bud formation.

Germination optimum temperature is 22-25 °C, 12-15 days after sowing germination, half a month after germination or seedlings, seedling growth is very slow. 120 to 140 days from sowing to flowering.

Cut flowers need 150 to 180 days.

Burpee sayd: Potted plants are used to decorate the living room, balcony or window sill, showing a fresh and elegant feeling. If you use a few cut purple eustomas with white lilies, it is very decent for a flower arrangement.

Lisianthus like pink champagne from Burpee, above, will grow in all zones as an annual, but you can expect better performance in areas with mild summers. While you can grow the plants from seed, they aren’t for beginners, and the they take a very long time to mature into blooming-sized plants when they aren’t cultivated under strictly maintained greenhouse conditions.

Your best bet is to buy plants with buds or flowers already emerging.

Burpee admits: Even greenhouse growers may sometimes flub and produce plants that favor foliage over flowers.

In other words, go ahead and buy lisianthus as a potted plant, which they also sell. Enjoy the thrill of having that beautiful flower unwind, in frilly colors and styles that even roses cannot duplicate.

Lisianthus are more delicate than roses. They don’t have any scent, alas. But do as florists do, and tuck a stem of freesia, or tuberose, into the bouquet.

Someone receiving a bouquet of lisianthus will be transported by the beauty and the (hidden) scent.

Same plant, different expression: the prairie gentian.

No matter that they have been given different Latin names: Eustoma grandiflora and Gentiana puberluenta, they are both considered Gentianaceae.

Prairie gentian, as above, is not frilly, and blooms in the fall. It’s perennial, and a wild flower, although just as hard to start from a seed. It seems contrary that prairie gentian seeds itself yet can be difficult to grow from seed, but welcome to nature.

What it “wants” is dry, hot, disturbed, alkaline ground with dry, warm nights. Again, the seeds need sunlight to germinate, and take up to five months, after planting, to produce a flower.

Luckily, the plants already growing have found their perfect habitat, and happily produce seeds. Not only that, but in areas like the southern US and Mexico, the prairie gentian is perennial. It remains year after year, offering up cheerful lavender/purple flowers in an arid part of high desert when few flowers are blooming.

None of these are tall flowers. Lisianthus tops out at two feet tall, at best. The hybrid kind Burpee sells will have flowers on long-enough stems to make nice flowers for cutting. And then will make more.

Even the Prairie Gentian will have one to eight flowers.

Take the easy road. I bought two packets of seeds. I was a fool. They will never produce flowers before we have a frost here in Upstate New York, and I don’t think I will find any potted plants in time to grow lisianthus this year in my garden. My loss.  But I had to try it.

Be smart. Don’t try it. Go with potted plants. – Linda Lee