Liatris is a wow-worthy perennial that is tough and beautiful at the same time. Liatris has many names and is also known as blazing star, gayfeather, or colic root. Loved by butterflies, bees, and many gardeners, this plant grows tall and slender and produces upright purple flowers in the fall. As an added bonus, these eye-catching flowers hold up well when cut and enjoyed in a vase.
Liatris (Liatris spp.) is a member of the Asteraceae family and is natively found growing across the United States in scrubs, sandhills, flatwoods, and upland pines. These tough conditions have enabled liatris to endure drought and other hardships once established.
Liatris has grass-like leaves that are green through the summer, shifting to a rich bronze color with the changing season and color palette of fall. It's also in fall that liatris produces upright flower stems topped by bottlebrush-like purple (and sometimes white) flowers. These flowers spikes can grow to be five feet tall and add drama and color to your landscape.
There are at least 13 species of liatris and several hybrids that can be grown in zones 8 to 10B, so finding the right liatris for your landscape shouldn't be a problem. Some liatris have more compact growth habits, while others have strong stems that make them hold up especially well when cut for display in vases. You can also find liatris with blooms in various shades of purple and even white.
Planting and Care
Because of its tall and slender growth habit, liatris does best when planted in a mass for a truly stunning display. You can either buy potted plants to put into your landscape, or you can sow seeds directly into the soil. Liatris can be planted in spring once the possibility of frost has passed; containerized plants can also be planted in the summer and fall.
Liatris will grow best when planted in full sun and well-drained soils. While not ideal, liatris can grow in shade and poorer soils, but will be short-lived. Plants should be spaced 12 to 15 inches apart.
Regular watering will help your liatris establish a strong root system. While water is important during the growing season, don’t overwater your plants as they can rot if the soil is too moist. Once your liatris is established, it will be fairly drought tolerant.
Liatris doesn’t have any major pest problems, but it is sometimes plagued by leaf spots, rusts, powdery mildew, white mold, and Verticillium wilt. Proper plant spacing will help prevent these problems by allowing for sufficient air circulation and sunlight to reach your plant.