Liatris spicata (Blazing Star liatris) is a perennial herbaceous plant in Asteraceae family. It is indigenous to the eastern lands of North America. You can find them prolifically growing in sedge meadows and moist prairies in those regions.
This article focuses on liatris spicata, its characteristics, propagation, caring, varieties, and uses.
Growing 1 – 5 feet tall, the purple flower spikes of these plants resemble feathers or bottle brushes. These species thrive in USDA hardiness zones 3 – 8. In Canada, these plants grow in the lands stretching between Midwest and East Coast.
In fact, Liatris genus consists of more than 40 Species. Among them, liatris spicata is one of the most famous species around the world for its showy flowers. These plants bloom from July to August or September, depending on the cultivar type and environment they grow in.
These plants have various names including prairie star, gayfeather, blazing star, button snakewort, and Liatris callilepis.
Characteristics of Liatris Spicata (Blazing Star Liatris) Plants
Generally, liatris spicata (Blazing Star liatris) plants are easy to propagate and maintain. Their blooming season is usually between summer and autumn in most USA climates.
In hot summer temperatures, most grasses go dormant. But these plants continue to attract masses with their beautiful fine-textured foliage throughout the summer season. In Autumn, the foliage and stalk arrangements turn bronzy orange with light brown seed heads.
With beautiful and delicate foliage that has a grass-like appearance, these durable plants provide appealing looks.
Growing from corms (bulbs), these plants develop large, tuberous roots. In spring, the sturdy stalks with vibrant purple or white flowers develop above the grassy foliage. These flowers themselves provide striking looks with their feathery appearance.
The long flower heads cover the top third portion of every flower stalk. These flower heads have numerous mini florets.
If grown in rich and overly moist soils, these upright stalks may require staking. Otherwise, this requirement is very rare.
Growing about 1 – 5 feet tall, these flower spikes attract several pollinators including hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Also, the migrating birds and local birds visit these plants to feed on ripening seeds.
Being disease and pest-resistant in most cases, these drought-tolerant plants are deer resistant too!
Propagation of Liatris Spicata (Blazing Star Liatris) Plants
Select a spot that receives full sunlight. liatris spicata (Blazing Star liatris) thrives in sunny locations well.
Although these plants can thrive in soils with almost any fertility level, they prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil more. To prevent root rot and other water-related diseases, quick drainage is essential. If needed, amend the soil with fine grit or sand.
Before planting, loosen the soil to about 8 inches deep. Then work with organic matter like manure or aged compost about 2 inches deep. In the dug planting holes, fill some bone meal.
Temperature and Humidity
In warm summer climates, these plants can tolerate the heat and humidity quite well. Similarly, in winters, they can tolerate a little bit of wet soil and cold weather.
You can simply purchase the corms (bulbs) from nurseries. Otherwise, you can divide your own plants and propagate as elaborated below:
1.) In spring, the clumps sprout initial leaves out. At this stage, just lift them up with a sharp shovel carefully, after digging around them.
2.) Rinse the soil off from the tuberous root mass.
3.) Using a sharp garden knife, divide the roots into different sections. Ensure each root section has at least one leaf or a growing bud. Dispose of the other sections.
4.) Sprinkle fungicides like garden sulfur on the root sections.
5.) After that, plant these root sections at least 5 inches deep. Make sure to space them about 5 – 16 inches apart. For ornamentally decorated looks, you can plant them in different patterns like starburst, Basketweave, Chevron Etc.,
6.) Water the divisions well after planting.
Continue to water at least once a week during the course of the first year. After that, they can survive droughts well with their water-retentive tuberous roots and corms.
You can purchase liatris spicata (Blazing Star liatris) seeds online or from any local nurseries nearby. If you have grown these plants in your garden, you can collect the seeds directly. Mostly, the seeds are viable for not more than a year.
If you live in cold areas, collect the seeds in autumn. Sow them right away in the gardens. You can also sow them in trays and leave them outside. Under extensive cold and moist environments, you can expect these seeds to germinate in the following spring.
if you live in warm areas, collect the seeds in late summer or early autumn. Store the collected seeds in a dark, cool, and dry place. About 3 months before sowing outdoors, mix them with moist sand, peat, or vermiculite. Place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerate.
When the outside temperature stays above 65 degrees Fahrenheit, plant the seeds outdoors.
Alternatively, you can also plant these cold treated seeds in containers and transplant the seedlings after the frost. Fill the planting container with a good quality potting mix. Just push the seeds gently into the mixture. place the container in a cool, bright spot.
Water regularly and maintain the moisture to facilitate sprouting. After the last frost date, you can transplant the seedlings in the garden.
Usually, the plants propagated from seeds bloom from the second year after maturing.
Caring of Liatris Spicata (Blazing Star Liatris) Plants
During the first year of growth, water the young liatris spicata (Blazing Star liatris) plants at least once a week. This prevents leaf scorch and stunted flowers, particularly in the hot and dry spells.
By using drip or trickle watering systems, you can water the plants at the base level effectively. In addition to water conversation, this helps to prevent waterlogging related diseases.
From the second year onwards, these plants being to exhibit their drought-tolerant characteristics. Hence, watering occasionally is enough then onwards.
If the soil is less fertile, apply balanced flower fertilizer at least once a year during spring. Adding organic matter like humus, manure, compost, Etc., encourage further healthy growth.
In fall and winter gardens, the stems and foliage turning shades of orange, brown or bronze provide attractive looks. However, prune all these vegetative debris and dead parts every spring.
Pruning increases airflow around the plants. This helps to avoid many common diseases like powdery mildews.
Mulching conserves the moisture and keeps the weeds down. Apply 2 – 4 layers of dry mulch such as dry grass or hay clippings, particularly around the young plants.
Generally, growers harvest liatris spicata leaves in summer and roots in fall. The dried liatris are used in dry flower arrangements and medical applications.
When the stalks bloom about 1 /2 – 1 /3 of their length, harvest them. After that, hang them upside down in a dark, dry and cool space for about a month. You can also use a hygroscopic substance (desiccant) like silica gel for drying and preserving the stalks.
Approximately, there are about 40 natural species of liatris. However, only three (L. spicata, L. pycostachya, L. aspera) of them are commonly available in the market.
Among them, liatris spicata (Blazing Star liatris) species are most widely available in nurseries. We have elaborated on the popular cultivar varieties of liatris spicata below.
Blazing Stars Mix
With densely packed white and purple flower heads sprouting purple-blue flowers, these plants provide a distinct look to the gardens. Blooming from summer to fall, these combo plants grow 24 – 36 inches tall.
Blazing stars mix plants are hardy to USDA zones 3 – 10. You can purchase Blazing stars mix seeds online easily.
Blooming in summer, these plants sprout reddish-purple colored plumes stalks. These plants are well known for their humidity-resistant characteristics.
Floristan Violet plants are hardy to USDA Zones 3 – 9. These plants are fit perfectly for summer gardens. You can purchase Floristan Violet seeds online easily.
Kobold is popular among compact varieties. Growing about 18 -36 inches in height, these plants tolerate hot and humid environments well.
Kobold plants are hardy to USDA Zones 3 – 9. You can easily purchase Kobold seeds online.
Pests and Diseases
Pest infections are rare in liatris spicata plants. But some common pests do bother them as elaborated below.
Feeding commonly on Liatris genus plants, S. sanguinea (bleeding flower moth) and Schinia gloriosa (glorious flower moth) do not pose severe threats.
You can simply remove them by handpicking or using moth traps. Blazing jet or hose waters can wash them off easily.
If the problems persist, treat them with chemicals like Bacillus thuringiensis or Carabyl.
We have elaborated on some of the common diseases that affect these plants below.
Leaf spot causes decolorized spots in infected foliage. Surrounded by a dark brown margin, these spots spread further and merge together. This disease spreads rapidly to the entire plant.
As a result, the leaves dry out, wilt, and fall off from the plants. The affected plants weaken and decline.
Using good quality Garden shears, remove the infected foliage. Rake off the debris immediately. Make sure to sterilize the equipment before and after usage.
You can also try organic treatments using potassium bicarbonate fungicides or copper fungicides.
If the problem still persists, try chemical options. Being the most effective and least toxic, chlorothalonil is a good option. It is sold under different names such as Daconil and Fungonil.
Covering the infected parts with a white powdery substance, this disease can cause withering, decolorization, distorted or stunted growth. Powdery mildew infects plants in high humid environments.
To prevent this disease, facilitate airflow around plants, allow plenty of sunlight, and maintain sanitization. You can treat infected plants with neem oil sprays or copper-based fungicides.
Uses of Liatris Spicata (Blazing Star Liatris) Plants
Generally, the leaves and roots of liatris spicata plants are used in various medical applications.
For treating oliguria (due to kidney disorder), gonorrhoea, and sore throats, modern herbal medical systems use liatris extensively. Herbal industries use these plants in the manufacturing of herbal insect-repellents.
In the olden days, the native Americans used roots of these plants in numerous medical applications including the treatment of snake bites, abdominal pain, backache, swelling, and colic
In flower beds, cutting gardens, containers, and other naturalized settings, liatris spicata (Blazing Star liatris) plants fit extremely well.
As Combination Plants
When grown in perennial gardens, these plants provide beautiful contrasting looks in combination with broad-leaved plants like Bear’s breeches and hostas
Also, the purplish flowers of these plants provide beautiful contrasting looks when interplanted with yellow or orange flowered plants. For instance, the combination of these plants with daylilies (Hemerocallis), black-eyed usans (Rudbeckia hirta), marigolds (Tagetes), or coreopsis provide exceptional contrasting looks.
When interplanted with similar colored flowering plants, the resulting beautiful scenery with a sweep of bold colors is a treat to the eyes. Examples of such plants include Verbena, Osteospermum, Gladiolus, and Pelargonium
In casual gardens, these plants mix well with summer plants like coneflower (Echinacea), blanket flower (Gaillardia), and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
As Standalone Plants
As specimen plants, liatris spicata (Blazing Star liatris) plants are a valuable addition to large drifts and stands. The beautiful, elegant flowers bloom in shades of white, pink, or amethyst (purplish) colors, decorating the spaces.
In cutting gardens and summer flower decorations, the long-lasting blooms of these plants show a stunning presence.
In butterfly gardens, the flowers attract a wide spectrum of butterflies, birds, and other pollinators with their pollen and nectar.