Lisianthus (Eustoma, Prairie gentian) belongs to the gentian family and has many beautiful names. People might also know Lisianthus as Bitter Plant, Irish Rose, Texas Bluebell, Japanese Rose.Translated straight from Latin, the name Eustoma means “beautiful mouth”, and also called “speaking beautifully” in Russian literary language.
Originally the eustoma came from Central America and The Caribbean Islands.
The legends of the Native Americans speak of the very first blooming of Lisianthus. It has happened on the grave of a virgin who was killed by the Spirit of War for rejecting his marriage proposal.
In Europe, Lisianthus became known thanks to the Irish doctor and plant scientist Patrick Brown.
The cut flowers of Lisianthus stay fresh in a vase up to 3 weeks,therefore the plant is very popular with flower gardeners. As an indoor plant, Lisianthus is being cultivated from the 1990's.
The plant has strong but elegant stems, similar to Carnation, about a meter long. At about half of its height the stem starts to branch out. It can have up to 35 buds which open one by one, and as a result, a stem looks like a bunch of flowers. Lisianthus has dull, oval-shaped, rather lanceolate leaves. It almost looks like they are made of wax, green with a touch of grayish-blue. The funnelform flower-cup is large and deep.
The flowers are 5-8 cm in diameter. Lisianthus can have double or single flowers in different tones: pink, lilac, white, violet, single-coloured or with a contrast brim.
When the bud is only half-open it reminds of a rose, the open flower looks more like a double poppy.
In nature, Lisianthus is a biennial plant. In gardens it's been mostly grown as a yearling, and only indoors you can grow Lisianthus as a perennial plant in pot.
Also you can start growing Lisianthus in garden beds as a biennial or yearling plant.
In nature, there are approximately 60 species of Lisianthus known. In a pot you can only grow Lisianthus russelianus. For growing in the garden choose Eustoma grandiflorum. Some flower gardeners are sure that these two are exactly the same, but plant scientists still are doubting. There are also short (up to 45 cm) and tall variants of Lisianthus. Tall variants are cultivated in gardens for harvesting flowers. The short types are mostly grown indoors or on balconies.
To start growing Lisianthus at home can bea painstaking work, asking for the effort and time. However, growing Lisianthus can become a well-paid business for those who will successfully learn the process. More and more people choose a Lisianthus for decorating their gardens and homes.
In this part, we will speak how to start growing Lisianthus from seed. The first difficulty is the size of seeds: there are 23000 seeds in 1 g. The seeds you buy in specialized stores are normally cured to improve their germinating ability, so in this case 60 seeds of 100 will sprout.
When you start Lisianthus from seeds to plant it in a garden bed later on, you need to begin in February or March, then it will be ready for blooming in July or August. Choose a growing medium for indoor plants: sterile, nitrogen-low, with pH 6-7. Disperse the seeds, and don't cover them with the ground. Just slightly push them in, and cover the container using plastic foil or glass, leaving a tiny vent for the air circulation. Arrange extralight by using daylight lamps for 10-12 hours a day. To assure the effective seed sprouting, keep the room temperature at 20 °C during day time, and not lower than 14 °C in the night.
Instead of watering, gently spray water onto the seeds. Most possibly you won't need to do it during the first 2 months: there will be sufficient evaporation.
If everything has been done correctly, you will see the first sprouts in about two weeks. The moment it happens, take off the covers and regularly spray the sprouts with Previcur. When the sprouts get their first pairs of leaves (it takes about 45 days), move them into pots (4-5 cm in diameter). After 3 months the little plants are ready to be moved into soil. Transplant them together with the ground they have been growing in.
If you want to decorate your home with beautifully blooming Lisianthus in the winter, plan the seed setting in the period from July to September. Fill a little container with a moistened growing medium made of sand and peat (1:1), disperse the seeds. Put the container, covered with plastic foil or glass, in a warm, light place (the air temperature must stay around 19-22 °C). When needed, spray the seeds with water. The first sprouts should appear after 2-3 weeks.
The moment your sprouts get a first pair of leaves, reduce the humidity level by letting the top layer of soil dry inbetween the watering sessions. From now on, moisten the ground in the morning, so the leaves stay dry in the night, like this you avoid the damping-off disease. When the sprouts have two pairs of leaves, it's time to prick them off to the pots and wait for the blooming in January or February.
Handling Of Lisianthus Indoors
To grow Lisianthus in pots is not easy. It badly needs fresh air and bright diffused light. The best solution is to put it at the window in the western or eastern part of a well-ventilated room with the air temperature from 19 to 22 °C. Moisten your plants with soft water as soon as the top layer of soil is dry. Avoid either overwatering or overdrying. There is no need to spray water on the plants, because it can result in a leave disease. During the plant's intensive growing period and during buds initiation, you need to nourish Lisianthus with liquid fertilizers (10-15 ml in 10 l of water). Don't forget to remove dead flowers on time.
Follow this instruction, and your Lisianthus will reward you with new flowers in about 3 months.
You can cultivate garden Lisianthus from seeds. If you want your plant to bloom in June or July, you have to seed in December or January. Fill the 50 ml cups with a soil mix for violets. Put 3-5 seeds on top, slightly push them into the ground and cover with plastic foil to create a greenhouse effect. Every 10 days you need to pull the foil up, to remove condensed water, and let the air in. If you want to get the first sprouts in 14 days, assure that the air temperature stays inbetween 20 and 25 °C.
During the first 2 months your seeds will also need extra light, but even then the sprouts will be growing very slowly.
At the end of February put the sprouts at a sunny window.
As a preventive care against disease, spray the sprouts with a solution of Previcur. You can also use growth enhancers like Nitrozyme to force the growing of your sprouts.
Sprouts get their first leaves after 30-45 days. This is the moment to transplant them in pots (3-5 sprouts each), make sure to put them deep enough into the earth, so that the bottom leaves are just above the ground. Water the plants and put a plastic bag on each pot for a hothouse effect.
After a week your sprouts will be 2 times bigger. At the end of February or the beginning of March transplant the plants to bigger pots (8 cm in diameter) together with the root-ball. Here they remain until it's time to transplant them into your garden.
Handling of Lisianthus Outdoors
In the middle of May, when there is no more risk for frost, you can move the seedlings into the outdoor ground. You need to choose a place where the soil has sufficient drainage, and where your plants will be protected from drafts and have a lot of diffused light. In the evening, or when the sky is clouded, put the seedlings with their root-balls into well-moistened holes. Lisianthus grows as a little bush, so you need to plant them with a 10-15 cm interval. After you are done with planting, cover the seedlings with jars or plastic bottles for the first 2-3 weeks. During this period there is no need to water the plants. As mentioned before, overdried or overwatered soil is unsuitable for Lisianthus.
When there are 6-8 leaves on the stem, you need to pinch the plant to encourage branching . In about a month when the sprouts are well rooted, nourish them with a mineral fertilizer. In June, use a growth enhancer, In July and Augustus apply budding and blossom boosters like Foliage-Pro for example.
Often it's better to use fertilizers less concentrated than producers advice on the package.
The exact moment when your Lisianthus starts blooming depends on the time you've set the seeds. If you did it at the end of November or the beginning of December, then your Lisianthus will start blooming around mid July. So if you set the seeds mid January then the Lisianthus blooms in August. It also depends on Spring weather conditions.
Blooming goes on continuously until the end of October: old flowers wilt, new ones pop out. A blooming Lisianthus isn't afraid of frost. Only when the temperature dives under -10 °C and when it starts snowing, Lisianthus may stop producing new buds.
If you think that your Lisianthus has stopped blooming too early, cut the wilted flowers off and it's very possible that after 6 weeks you plant will recommence blooming.
The dangerous plant pests for Lisianthus are plant lice, slugs,white flies and red spiders. To protect plants you can apply several spray solutions such as Ferramol, Liquid Ladybug, Etisso Blattlaus-Sticks, whatever is available in your local garden stores. To prevent diseases you may want to treat your plants with Previcur. For curing common diseases such as grey mold, powdery mildew, or fusarium wilt, treat plants using a variety of garden fungicide sprays.
After your potted Lisianthus has finished blooming you have to cut the stems so that they only have 2-3 internodes left. Then store it in the place with the air temperature about 10-15°C. During the dormant period the plant doesn't need much watering, and you also don't need to provide it with nutrition. In the spring, when you see new sprouts on your plant, move it together with its root ball into the new soil and proceed with the regular care.
You can make your Lisianthus bloom longer than usual. For that, you need to move it into a pot together with garden soil, and place it on the balcony or at the window. Handle the plant as usual and it will continue blooming inside the house. However, all the plants have a dormant period. After all flowers are wilted and the leaves got yellowish, you need to follow the same procedure as for the indoor Lisianthus. Cut the stem on the height of 2-3 internodes, and move the plant into a cool, well-aired room until the Spring comes. There is almost no watering required during the dormant period.