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Liatris is a flowering plant and belongs to the sunflower, Asteraceae family. Native to the land of North American prarie regions of United States, the Bahamas, Mexico and Canada, this perennial plant is mostly used as attractive and ornamental plant.  Liatris is also known as gayfeather and blazing star.  Some of its domesticated species are used in floral arrangements as well. In winters, the flowers survive as corms.  Its usage as intestinal antispasmodic has earned it the name of colic root.  The grass-like leaves stay all throughout summer and in winter; it can grow out as root, crown, sprout clump, rhizome or corms.  In fall, the green leaves turn shiny brown.  But it is the summer that most of gardeners wait for because that’s the time when you see flowers in the shape of bottlebrush spikes.  The color of flowers can be white or purple and the plant can grow up to five feet when mature and in flowering phase.

It is a very common plant and at least one can find 13 species easily being grown by the gardeners all over the world.  The four common species one can find are L. aspera, L. ligulistylis, L. pycnostachya and L. spicata.

  • L Aspera, which is also known as rough blazing star, thrives in moderate sites and dry soil. Dunes, sandy fields and roadbeds or abandoned rail bunkers. The pink flowers look amazing against the rocky and rustic backdrops. The flowering season for this species is from August to October.  
  • L. ligulistylis or meadow blazing star is zone 4 hardy and its pink-purple flowers have spikes that bloom in from August to September.  This species prefer moist sites such as stream beds and meadows.  The flowers attract butterflies on a large scale.
  • Prairie blazing star (button snakeroot or Kansas gayfeather) or L pycnostachya grows up in moist sites such as damp prairies and meadows.  The white and purple flowers extend up to five feet tall spikes. The flowering season from July to September.
  • Dense blazing star or L. spicata thrives in wetter conditions such as swampy meadows. With a hardy zone level of 3, this is the most commonly found species that grow from August to September.  The most common varieties found are:
  1. Alba: This L. spicata variety has pure white flowers.
  2. Kobold: It has purple flowers and gardeners use its compact size for bordering their gardens.
  3. Floristan Violett: The violet-colored flowers of this strong-stemmed variety catch attention.
  4. Callilepsis: The flowers have long stems, which make them an ideal choice for floral arrangements.

 How can you grow Liatris?

Liatris can be grown from elongated roots, rhizomes, seeds or corms. If you aren’t sure of propagation, you can get them at nearby flower shops that sell planters. The flowering season for most of the varieties remains the same. The plants flower in the same season.

If you are growing the plant from seeds, sow them directly in the soil as the spring approaches. Usually within 20-45 days, the seed germinate and shoot buds. If you want to increase the chances of survival for the plant, you can keep the seeds in cold and moist place for about four or six weeks.

You can also plant the seeds in the soil in early winter. The difference between seed-grown and otherwise propagated plants is that the former takes another year to bloom whereas the latter sees the flowering phase in the same growth year.

As the plant grows, it is advised that you keep digging and dividing larger clumps.  Use shovel or sharp knife to divide and cut the roots or corms. Keep at least one eye on every divided part.

Plant them at least 12 to 15 inches apart in soil

Liatris can tolerate some shade and poorly-drained soil to some extent. However, they thrive in full sun and moist soil that is well-drained. Since the plant remains in sun all the time, it is important that it stays hydrated until its root system has established properly. Once it is, it becomes a hardy and drought-resistant to a great extent.

Please be cautious with overwatering as it can lead to rotting. Ask your florist before fertilizing the plants. Ideally, you should use fertilizers during early growth. Once it is done, you can use stop it. Please ensure that you don’t overdo the fertilizers as it is seen that in most of liatris varieties, blooming doesn’t happen fully due to over-fertilization.

Insects and Pests:

Apart from flea beetles pestering a few of the varieties, insects don’t haunt the plant much. Though, diseases like leaf spots, rusts, powdery mildew, Verticillium wilt and white mold are major cause of concern.  To some extent, you can prevent the onset of disease by keeping the plants in sunlight and ensuring proper ventilation.

Planting Liatris in Garden:

Usually perennials are broad-leaved plants. Liatris with its spike-shaped colorful blooms, add variety to your garden.  You can plant purple liatris with yellow blooms. Similarly, the plant also goes well with silver foliage and grasses.

The flowers attract bees and butterflies.

Liatris as Cut Flowers:

Liatris are used heavily by florists all over the world in floral arrangements. They are used fresh and dried.

Liatris as food:

Larvaes of Lepidoptera species use the plant as food including the flowers and petals. Schinia gloriosa and Schinia sanguinea, flower moths exclusively are fond of the flowers.