Most people know Liatris as a cut flower. The gayfeather flower with its long, purple spikes make an attractive addition to a wide variety of bouquets, so it appears very popular in professional floral arrangements.
It may surprise you to know about the many different varieties and bloom colors of Liatris and how they all make a wonderful and hardy addition to any perennial flower garden.
In this article, we will discuss the various types of gayfeather flower plants available and share valuable tips on growing these hardy perennials successfully. Read on to learn more.
- Liatris Care & What Is It?
- 6 Great Reasons Making Gayfeather A Great Garden Addition
- Lesser Known Types Of Liatris
- How To Propagate Liatris From Seed With Direct Sowing
- Propagation Using Flats
- Storing Seeds In The Fridge
- Propagation By Division Or Softwood Cutting
- Liatris Rather Enjoy Tough Love!
- Guarding Against Problems
- Is Deadheading Desirable?
- Where To Find Liatris
Liatris Care & What Is It?
This type of flower may also refer to as Blazing Star or Gayfeather Liatris. People also occasionally call this “Colic Root” because of its use as a traditional folk medicine for soothing upset tummies.
By any name, most species are natives of the prairie or grasslands. The gayfeather flower grows wild in a variety of natural settings and accommodates easily to a garden setting.
These hardy, attractive flowers grow up to two to five feet tall and sport grass-like leaves. The flower heads consist of multiple tiny flowers which appear white or pale purple. The flowers cluster around the top one-third of the stem.
The blooming season makes a length extending from early in the summer to late in the autumn. This varies somewhat from one species to another.
All types of Blazing Star bloom in an unusual way. The bloom starts at the top of the flower spike and proceeds downward.
When you cut Blazing Starflower Liatris spikes for floral arrangements, it serves as a good idea to cut off the top one-third of the plant with open buds. Leave unopened buds below it to bloom and add color to your garden.
You can also make use of purple Liatris as dry flowers. To do this, look for flower spikes with the flowers entirely opened.
Cut off the entire flower spike (stem included) all the way down to the base. Finally, hang the stems and flowers upside down in a well-aerated area with indirect lighting to dry.
6 Great Reasons Making Gayfeather A Great Garden Addition
Although Liatris can grow quite tall, it takes up very little space in the garden. For this reason, it makes an excellent fill-in for empty spaces and a great addition to container gardens and very small gardens.
Function & Beauty
Tall, colorful Gayfeather flowers make a beautiful backdrop for shorter perennial flowers. It also makes an excellent border or summertime privacy fence in the taller varieties.
Liatris gives many benefits to friendly fauna in the garden. It attracts insect pollinators such as bees and butterflies during the growing season. In the autumn, seeds make excellent supplemental food for birds.
Recommended Reading: Best Plants For A Butterfly Garden
Not taking much water makes another excellent reason for choosing Liatris for your garden. In fact, the plant tolerates drought because its corms naturally retain water for use during dry times.
Easy To Grow
You can easily cultivate the Blazing Star as long as you have an area getting bright full sun and well-drained soil. Low fertility of the soil does not pose an issue. In fact, Liatris does better with lean-to moderate nutrients.
The plant is easy to grow and also seems to resist pests and diseases. Also, the plant does incredibly hardy from USDA zones 5 to 9.
Liatris Is Strong!
Blazing Star Liatris possesses almost complete immunity to the majority of predators and plant maladies. The plant also resists deer.
For all of these reasons, Liatris makes an excellent choice for almost any garden. Liatris Spicata (Dense Blazing Star) makes one of the most commonly planted species. Also, this appears like the type of Gayfeather flowers most people seem familiar with.
You can find Dense Blazing Star easily in the majority of garden centers. Most mail-order nurseries also order to offer one form or another of this species if no garden centers exist in your area.
- Spicata consists of some cultivars which include:
- Callilepsis. This makes an excellent choice if you want to grow flowers for cutting. The stems feel very long, strong, and smooth.
- Floristan Violett appears as another good choice as a cut flower. You see them most often in professional flower arrangements. The flower spikes look a deep violet, and the stems come exceptionally strong.
- Kobold variety looks tiny and compact. It produces deep and impressive purple flowers. It makes an excellent choice as a low perennial border.
- On another hand, Alba comes from a dwarf version which only grows up to 1 1/2′ feet high. The flowers look a dazzling white.
- Bluebird, which produces beautiful the purplish blue flowers.
- Snow Queen billows with white flowers.
Lesser Known Types Of Liatris
In addition to Liatris Spicata, many other types of Blazing Star grow wild in many places across the United States.
Liatris ligulistylis – Meadow Blazing Star
This type appears as one of the most eye-catching types of Gayfeather flowers growing as tall as 4′ feet high and sporting abundant, billowing blossoms. This type makes a good choice for cooler, damper areas as long as the soil remains well-drained. It grows naturally in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.
Liatris squarrosa – Earl’s Blazing Star
It produces very large violet-red tufts of flowers on stems measuring 2′ feet high.
The individual flowers within the tufts of this summer flowering plant look large and distinct, and this variety gives an extended blooming season throughout the summer months.
You will find it growing wild in Texas, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado.
Liatris squarrulosa – Southern Blazing Star
This variety also produces beautiful purplish-red flower spikes, but it appears much bigger than L. squarrosa. In fact, it can grow as high as 6′ feet. In addition to being impressively large, it also feels impressively tough.
It thrives in very poor soil and grows wild in most southern and Midwestern states. No wonder, North Carolina’s Botanical Gardens chose it as the Wildflower of the Year in 1998.
Liatris elegans – Pinkscale Blazing Star
This Liatris come from different southern states in the U.S. (i.e. Texas, Oklahoma, Western Florida, and South Carolina). This beautiful variety grows as tall as 4′ feet high and presents very lavish lilac-purple flowers that have delicate white inner petals. It begins blooming late in the summer and continues throughout the fall.
Liatris aspera – Rough Gayfeather
This type bears beautiful lavender flowers during the late summertime and early in the fall. It grows to be as tall as 5′ feet, and it fits areas where it will get support from surrounding plants such as shrubs or from a wall, or trellis. Rough Gayfeather grows wild in the eastern, Midwestern, and southern United States.
Liatris graminifolia – Grass Leafed Blazing Star
This variety appears quite small growing to a green height of only 2′ feet. Its stems look reddish-pink while the gayfeather flowers look a very pale lavender. In fact, they weigh so light they may even appear to be white.
This type of Liatris grows naturally throughout Alabama and southern New Jersey.
- microcephala, dwarf variety of Gayfeather.
This variety grows to one or 2′ feet high and produces purplish-red flower spikes during the mid-summer months. Its foliage forms an attractive grassy rosette.
This variety grows naturally in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Furthermore, it makes a nice choice as a lobe order or as a focal point in a rock garden.
How To Propagate Liatris From Seed With Direct Sowing
Because it belongs to the family of wildflowers, you can easily start growing a Liatris. You can gather the Liatris seeds from existing plants late in the summertime and sow them outdoors immediately in the areas where you wish them to grow in the spring.
The seeds need exposure to the moist soil and cool conditions of winter to germinate in the springtime. Placing them in a cool location makes one of the best and easiest methods. Mark the areas where you sow the seeds to recognize your plants when they emerge in the spring.
Keep in mind that when you plant Liatris from seed, you may not see flowers during the first year. With corm division or cuttings, you will more likely see blooms right away.
Propagation Using Flats
If you do not remember where you scattered your Liatris seeds, you can also plant them in flats late in the fall and simply leave the flats outdoors throughout the winter.
When your seedlings emerge and begin to thrive, you can relocate them to their permanent settings.
Also, bring the flats indoors very early in the spring. Warm them up and provide them with good artificial light to give them a head start.
If you own a greenhouse or other area set up for starting seedlings indoors, this makes a very good idea.
After all dangers of frost pass, you can begin acclimating your hothouse seedlings to outdoor conditions and then move them to their permanent location.
Storing Seeds In The Fridge
If you plan to move or have other reasons for delaying planting, you may wish to gather your seeds late in the fall.
Then, mix them with slightly moist sand placed in a plastic bag or airtight plastic container in your refrigerator.
You can also keep them chilled for a couple of months until the time to plant them comes.
Propagation By Division Or Softwood Cutting
You can also propagate Liatris by division during the late winter months. Find a mature plant and identify the tuberous corm. Dig it up and divide it to make the number of new plants you want.
You can also propagate this type of plant from softwood cuttings you can take during the springtime. Choose and prepare as you would any other cutting.
Liatris Rather Enjoy Tough Love!
Blazing star plants grow easily no matter which method of propagation you choose. Although Liatris can tolerate drought, remember to keep them very well-watered during the first year after planting. This will give them a chance to establish their roots.
Take care not to water excessively, though. This can cause plant root rot and decay.
If you wish, you can fertilize early in the spring with commercial fertilizers. Again, don’t overdo it. With Liatris, too much of a good thing results in danger.
These plants generally do much better with a measured amount of water and slightly lean and hungry soil.
As a hardy wildflower, gayfeather care is easy in the long term. Given plenty of full sun, halfway decent soil, and semi-regular watering, you can expect these perennials to thrive and return year after year with little or no care from you.
Be sure to identify your Blazing Star Liatris correctly because some types prefer very dry areas while others do a bit better with more moisture.
Mix-and-match varieties accordingly to guarantee plenty of Gayfeather reblooms throughout the spring, summer, and autumn.
Also, keep these preferences in mind when choosing companion plantings for gayfeather Liatris.
Guarding Against Problems
While the gayfeather plant holds very little problem with pests and diseases, you must still provide proper growing conditions to ensure resistance. Providing spacing of one foot to 15″ inches apart early on.
They may grow closer together on their own as they mature, but as seedlings, they will need plenty of air circulation and good exposure to sunlight (full sun) to become well-established.
Some problems you may see occasionally include:
You can prevent all of these problems by providing plenty of sunlight, proper watering and spacing, and good air circulation.
Correcting your growing conditions may seem all you need to handle these problems if they suddenly occur.
Otherwise, the use of fungicide and insecticidal soap can do the trick.
Is Deadheading Desirable?
You can certainly extend your blooming season by selecting a good mix of Liatris kobold and companion plants. You can also extend it by deadheading the old Liatris flowers. Moreover, this helps keep your garden looking tidy.
As soon as your gayfeather flowers start to fade, you should cut the plant all the way back to the basal leaves (those that emerge at the base of the stem).
Deadheading will prevent your plants from going to seed and will encourage them to create more blossoms.
At the end of the blooming and growing season, allow your plants to go to seed because the seeds provide a good food source for birds in the early winter months.
When your plants finish creating seeds, cut them down to the ground in preparation for winter.
Don’t let cuttings pile up on the ground where your plants grew because they may develop fungus or provide a haven for garden pests such as slugs and snails.
Where To Find Liatris
These flowers literally grow wild over a great deal of the United States.
Keep a sharp eye to locate a nice variety of plants in your area. Also, look out for them late in the fall and catch them in time to gather the seeds.
Naturally, you can also find seedlings in some nurseries and purchase seeds online quite easily through gardening websites, native plant websites, and even online sellers such as Amazon.
Your local gardening society and native plant society also serve as excellent sources.