Urn Shaped Gentian: Where Does Urn Gentian Grow

By Bonnie L. Grant

Gentiana urnula seems to be a plant with a hidden history. What is urn gentian and where does urn gentian grow? While plenty of pictures abound on the internet, there is little information to be gleaned. The layered plated leaves and low growth habit of the little plant makes it an interesting stand out for succulent collectors. Urn shaped gentian is native to Tibet and has very traditional succulent and cacti needs. If you can find one, you should add it to your collection!

What is Urn Gentian?

It is common in botany for a plant to have several scientific and common names. This is due to new classification systems and streams of information, as well as regional preferences. Gentiana urnula has been referred to as starfish succulent plant, but this name actually seems to belong to a cactus, Stapelia grandiflora – otherwise known as starfish cactus. Urn shaped gentian may also be called star gentian, but that is up to some debate as well. Whatever its name, the plant is charming and well worth finding.


Urn gentian is an alpine plant that would work well in a rock garden or succulent container display. It is quite hardy, down to USDA zones 3, which makes one wonder, where does urn gentian grow? The growing zones indicate its native mountain terrain is cold. Web research also shows it to be found in China and Nepal.

The little guy is only 6 inches tall or less and has a similar spread. It produces pups as it grows just as many succulent and cacti species. These can be divided away from the parent plant, allowed to callus and then started as a new separate plant. If the plant is happy, it will produce a large white flower with stripes.

Growing Gentian Urnula

Urn gentian performs best in well-drained, gritty soil with vermiculite or perlite added. A cacti or succulent mixture should be sufficient if you don’t want to make your own mixture.

Growing Gentiana urnula with other alpine succulents indoors makes a great display, but ensure the container is well draining and leave several inches between new plants for growth.

To pot up pups, cut them away from the parent and lay the little plant in a dry, warm location for a few days to callus. Place the pup callus side down into a moist soilless medium to root. Rooting should take place within a few weeks and then the new plant can be repotted in succulent mix.

Caring for Urn Shaped Gentian

Full, but indirect, sunshine is a must for this plant. Once established, the plant will need to be watered deeply and allowed to dry out between water periods. It is fine to keep it on the dry side, especially in winter, when its water needs are very low.

In addition to moderate water, repot the plants every 3 years. They can tolerate crowding, which means they do not need a pot large enough to expand into.

Feed the plant with diluted cactus food during the growing season. Watch for rot and don’t allow the roots to sit in water. Soil gnats are common pests when soil is too wet.

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