Botanical Name: Liatris spicata
Common Name: Gayfeather, Blazing Star
Family: Asteraceae (Sunflowers)
Size: 24-48″ tall x 9-18″ wide
Versatile and easy to grow liatris blazing star plants love the high desert environment. These tall plants emerge from mounds of narrow, grass-like leaves with flowers forming along the tall spikes with fuzzy, thistle-like blossoms. Usually purple there are also rose colored and white varieties available. In addition to their attractive blooms, the foliage remains green throughout the growing season.
Liatris is a long-blooming perennial wildflower usually planted from corms (marketed as bulbs) that flower in their first year. Starting from seeds is also possible, though it can take two or three years for plants to flower. These corms will send up shoots followed by flowers approximately three months after a spring planting. As with all types of bulbous plants, the largest corms will produce the most impressive flowers, and you should look for corms that approach 3 inches or more in diameter. Space the corms 12 to 15 inches apart, and plant them 2 to 4 inches deep.
Another winner in the high desert garden – liatris is one of my favorites. It’s distinctive shape adds variety to the garden. It is perfect behind shorter plants (orange gazanias!) or co-mingled with mid sized plants such as shasta daisy.
It can be hard to make yourself deadhead them as in my experience you only really get one bloom cycle from liatris but it is important as it encourages the plant to direct its energy into the production of bigger and better blooms. As soon as blazing star flowers begin to fade, cut the stem back to the basal leaves. These are the small leaves that grow from the base of the liatris stem.
Apparently liatris will self-sow however I have never had this happen. It is quite easy to propagate by division. In spring as new growth is just beginning, use a shovel or trowel to dig up the entire clump. Separate the clump into sections, each with at least one thick corm with at least one “eye” or bud. Plant them in their new spots where you have loosened the soil about 5-6 inches deep and added water. Space pieces at least 1 foot apart to ensure good air circulation. Doing this every few years will also help rejuvenate the plants and extend the life of a clump.
My only problem with Liatris is that when the squirrels come over my fence in the spring they love to eat it down to the ground before it has even had a chance to mature.
Growing Liatris from Seed
Liatris is easy to start from seed, either from purchased seed or from the tiny seeds you collect from the dried flower heads in late fall. Some sources state that seeds should be cold stratified for 8 to 10 weeks in order to germinate but I have had no issues with germination if this has not been done.
Seeds can be sown directly into the garden or started indoors although it may take a year or two before they bloom.
- Direct sow in full sun in poor but well-drained soil in the fall or spring after danger of frost.
- Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
- Sow seeds evenly and thinly and cover very lightly with fine soil.
- Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
- Start the seeds in cell packs or other containers with three seeds per cell, press into the soil and very lightly (1/16″) cover them with a fine layer of soil or seed starting medium.
- Keep seed trays warm and moist. Soil temperature should be between 65° and 75°.
- Seeds will germinate in 15 to 20 days.
Buy Liatris seeds from my Etsy Store