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What is a Lisianthus?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Lisianthus is a flowering plant known by many names, such as Texas bluebell, prairie or tulip gentian, or Eustoma. Native to North America, the plant was famed as a wildflower of the open prairie, proving notoriously difficult to cultivate. Advances in cultivation and genetic technology allowed for garden versions of the pretty lisianthus to be developed.

Despite a short blooming season, the lisianthus is beloved for its unusual flowers and striking colors. Typically lavender, vibrant purple, or fuchsia, the flower petals form an overlapping, slightly conical shape. Some varieties feature a double layer of petals and greatly resemble roses. They are popular with florists as a filler flower and are often a beautiful and usually less expensive choice for a bouquet than roses. Their striking color and silky petals have also helped the prairie gentian gain much appreciation and use in wedding bouquets and centerpieces.

Lisianthus plants love the sun, and should be grown in direct or dappled sunlight. Though plants can be potted and kept indoors, they still require 4-8 hours of light per day in order to thrive. Warmer climates with mild winters are preferable, though the plants can be moved to a sunny spot indoors if grown in colder weather. Soil should be kept moist and damp but not soaked, and the lisianthus require excellent drainage to avoid root damage. Some gardeners recommend a thick mulch to help the plant retain the required amount of water.

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Growing lisianthus from seeds is a process requiring considerable patience. Generally, the plant requires 4-6 months to reach maturity from a seed, meaning that careful planting is required to ensure that growing plants get enough light. Generally, seeds are planted in late winter or early spring, in order to ensure a late summer bloom. Seeds are also notoriously tiny and may come coated in an additional layer to help gardeners distribute the seeds correctly. Seeds can be planted in outdoor beds, containers, or small, well drained pots.

Like most flowers, the beautiful lisianthus has metaphorical and symbolic meaning. The symbolic interpretation of this flower varies depending on the source. Some believe it to be a symbol of adoration or sincere admiration, whereas others cite its roots as a prairie flower and see it as a token of old-fashioned values and sensibility. The name lisianthus comes from Greek words for “dissolution” and “flower,” leading some symbologists to suggest it represents an outgoing or divisive nature. This flower, along with the chrysanthemum, is also associated with the astrological sign Sagittarius.

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