How To Plant And Grow Blazing Star Liatris?

After the exuberant growth of spring and early summer, our gardens can slow down and sag a bit, especially when extended spells of hot weather set in.

As the low moisture and high heat conditions continue, grasses go into dormancy, new foliage slows to a crawl, and many plants conserve energy by restricting blooms – leaving gardens looking tired and spent.

But there’s a clever way to defy the oppression of summer’s heat:

By planting native species, such as L. spicata.

Commonly called blazing star, gayfeather, or prairie star, L. spicata is a versatile North American plant with plenty of ornamental allure.

Noted for their tall, stately plumes of amethyst or white and delicate grass-like foliage, this durable wildflower appeals to the beginner and experienced gardener alike.
Easy to grow and propagate, it’s a low-maintenance gem that blazes in the dog days of summer while other plants wilt from the heat.
Join us now as we look at how to add this pretty prairie stalwart to your garden!

Blazing stars can be propagated from a division of corms and tuberous roots, and from seed.

By Division
Dig around the clump when leaves first emerge in spring, then lift out with a spade.
Gently rinse off the soil to expose the tuberous root mass.
Using a sharp, clean knife, cut the roots into sections, ensuring each section has roots and a growing bud or leaf.
Break off any small bulbils, or baby corms.
Sprinkle cut divisions with a fungicide such as garden sulfur.
Plant tuberous roots 5 inches deep in a starburst pattern, spacing new pieces 8-16 inches apart.
Plant bulbils 2-3 inches deep and 4-8 inches apart.
Fill in the planting hole and water promptly, until the top 6 inches of soil are moist.
To keep down weeds and conserve moisture, cover with a thick 2 to 4-inch layers of dry mulch, such as hay or dry grass clippings.
By Seed
Seeds are viable for less than 12 months and can be collected in the fall and direct sown into the garden right away – if you have cold winters. They need extensive cold exposure in a moist environment to germinate the following spring.

If you don’t have time to plant in place, sow in flats and leave the flats outdoors over the winter for germination and spring planting.

If your winters are mild, collect seeds in the fall and store them in a cool, dry spot. Approximately 12 weeks before direct sowing outdoors, mix seeds with moist vermiculite, peat, or sand in a resealable bag. Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to plant.

Plant cold-treated seeds outdoors when the weather has warmed to around 65°F.
Alternatively, after 12 weeks of cold, pot up seeds into 4-inch containers to sprout. Use a potting mix of equal parts moist sand, compost, and vermiculite and lightly spread the seeds on top. Cover with a bare dusting of potting mix.

Place in a cool, bright location, water regularly, and plant seedlings into the garden after the last frost date for your region.

Plants started from seed will bloom in their second year of maturity.

Best Growing Conditions
Like a true prairie belle, the cultivation of L. spectra is straightforward.

Most cultivars prefer full sun, or some light shade, and well-drained soil of lean-to medium fertility. Good drainage is a must, as soggy conditions can cause root rot.
Plant in cool spring weather to allow young plants to get established.
Prepare the soil by loosening to a depth of 8 inches and working in 1 to 2-inch layers of organic matter, such as aged compost or manure.
Amend the soil with sand or fine grit to improve drainage if needed.
Create a planting hole twice as wide and slightly deeper than the root ball. Mix in some bone meal.
Add the plants, fill in the hole, and firm them in place.
Water to settle and water regularly until established.
Drought tolerance is one of the blazing star’s highly desirable traits, as the water-retentive corms and tuberous roots can sustain them through dry periods.
And while they need well-draining soil, they can happily tolerate more moisture than many other perennials, making them suitable for rain gardens as well.
Plants grown from tuberous divisions will bloom in the first year of growth, while those started from bulbils can take two years to flower.

Growing Tips
The blazing star is a tough plant that thrives naturally in a harsh prairie environment. But in dry weather, new plantings should be watered weekly until a strong root system is established.

As with all bulbs and corms, avoid over-watering.

After the first few months, your Liatris will need little attention. Relatively drought tolerant, they’re mostly pest and disease resistant, and deer tend to ignore them as well.

A good choice to attract pollinators, L. spicata is rich in nectar and pollen. Plant some in open areas to broadcast their appeal to flying insects.

Ripe seed heads provide a rich source of food for birds such as goldfinches and migrating songbirds.

Pruning and Maintenance
Foliage and stems can be cleaned up any time after dying and turning shades of bronze, brown, and orange. But they add a nice touch to the fall and winter garden and can be left in place until spring cleanup.

In early spring, remove any vegetative debris and side-dress established clumps by working in organic matter such as mature compost, humus, or manure.
Reliable Cultivars to Consider
Only one species, L. spicata, aka blazing star, is easily found in garden centers, but it has several reliable cultivars.

‘Blazing Stars Mix’
‘Blazing Stars Mix’

‘Blazing Stars Mix’ is a blend of densely packed purple and white flower heads, combining white and deep, blue-purple flowers. Hardy in Zones 3-10, this bold combo grows 24 to 36 inches tall and blooms from mid-summer to fall.

Pick up a package of 10 large bulbs online from Burpee.

‘Floristan Violet’
‘Floristan Violet’ offers multiple stalks of amethyst-colored plumes that begin blooming in early summer.
‘Floristan Violet’

Hardy in Zones 3-9, this heat and humidity-resistant cultivar shines in the summer garden.

Order bare-root plants online from Burpee.

‘Kobold’ is a popular choice in a more compact form.

Hardy in Zones 3-9, this cultivar grows 18 to 36 inches in height and handles heat and humidity with ease.

Bare root plants can be ordered online from Burpee.

Other Choices
Home Depot also offers an online selection with a 12-pack of ‘Blazing Star Mixed’ bulbs, combining white and purple flowers. Hardy in Zones 3-9, mature plants reach a height of 48 inches.

Seeds of L. aspera ‘gayfeather’ can also be purchased online, like this 500-gram packet that’s available from True Leaf Market. Sow indoors or out, and flowers will appear in their second year.

Other species, like pink scale blazing star (L. elegans) and meadow blazing star (L. ligulistylis) may be available for home cultivation through local botanical gardens, specialty mail-order nurseries, and wildflower centers.

Managing Pests and Diseases
Insect problems are rare, but L. spectra are used as food plants by the larvae for several species of flower moths, including the rare glorious flower moth (Schinia gloriosa), and the bleeding flower moth (S. sanguine). Both of these feed exclusively on plants from the Liatris genus.

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