Simply The Best-July

A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy. ~Luis Barragan

 

Summer is blooming all around me in the garden here in late July.  So many plants to choose from for this monthly profile.  But one of my very favorite surprises every July are the beautiful blooms of Liatris spicata (purple flower above).  This wonderful native, part of the Aster Family (Asteraceae), is a tall, slender perennial growing 3-4 ft. high. The grass-like leaves grow at the base of the plant, and continue up the stem all the way to the flower. The tightly tufted flower heads, of purple or white, bloom from the top down beginning in July and continuing to September.

Have you ever seen anything so lovely and unique.  A perfect plant to include in my Dozen for Diana, a wonderful meme found at Elephant’s Eye, and  for Gail’s equally wonderful Wildflower Wednesday, at Clay and Limestone.

Liatris grows best in sun and will tolerate some shade in clay, sandy or normal soil.  They enjoy moist to dry conditions, and thrive in the heat, cold, drought and poor soil growing without much fuss.  It does best without fertilizer and does not like to be left in standing water in winter.  Liatris is hardy to zone 3 and is rarely bothered by pests or diseases. Rodents are said to like the corms/roots, and  slugs are fond of the young shoots in spring, but thankfully I have not seen either of these issues.

Since it is fairly easy to grow, I wonder why more gardeners do not grow this native plant.  There are many ways to grow Liatris.  The seeds are ready to collect in October, and can be sown directly outdoors in fall or early spring. But seed-started plants can take up to 2 years to produce flowers.  If you want flowers faster use the corms.  Older plants produce enough corms that can be dug up and divided during late winter while dormant. Of course you can buy the corms or plants.  The corms can be planted any time from early spring to mid summer for blooms in that season, or in fall for blooms the next season. Corms should be planted no more than 2 inches below the soil and less if you are using mulch. Even though corms are faster, many feel propagation from seed is the easiest and most reliable method.

 

Origin

Liatris is a wonderful American wildflower that was brought to Europe, where it was used as a cut flower and perennial.  It then returned to the US and regained its popularity. They are native to the eastern and central US. In their native habitat, Liatris grows in many different conditions. Some prefer moist meadows and marsh edges, others like dry prairies, rocky or sandy conditions.

 

Name

There are around 40 different species of Liatris often called by their more common names Gayfeather or Blazing Star as well as Dense blazing star, Dense gayfeather, Marsh blazing star.

Blazing Star and Gayfeather certainly describe the appearance of the flowers. Other common names, Backache Root, Colic Root and Throatwort refer to Native American uses.

 

Uses

This plant is a bee magnet and has a special value to native and bumble bees. Hummingbirds enjoy Liatris for the nectar. Butterflies such as Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies also enjoy the nectar and the birds love the seeds in the fall.

Liatris is best used in mixed perennial borders.  The aromatic leaves and roots can be added to potpourri. And the leaves and the roots are said to have been added to various herbal insect repellent mixtures.

The sturdy stalks and bright color, makes Liatris one of the best cut flowers grown in the garden. And in a vase, as the flower fades at the top, they can just be snipped off and the flower will continue to bloom down the stem.  I have added many Liatris and plan to add more so I can enjoy them along with other wonderful summer blooms inside too.

 

Folklore

Native Americans used Liatris for food and various medicinal purposes. The Cherokee found the root helpful to relieve intestinal gas and backaches. Others used it as a cough syrup and for the treatment of urinary tract infections.  Another unusual use among Native American tribes was to chew the corm and blow it up the nostrils of horses to keep them from getting out of breath.

Folk medicine practitioners used it as a diuretic, and to treat sore throats, kidney stones, and gonorrhea.  If not prepared carefully Liatris can actually cause severe intestinal upset.

 

Language of Flowers

Liatris is part of the aster family where the beautiful blooms means, “I will think of it.”  But Liatris has it’s own meaning of, “I will try again.”  Fitting sentiment from a plant that easily grows and thrives every year in my garden, and is well loved by so many critters.

 

Soft spikes of subtle purple rise,

Bursting to life under a summer sun.

Lasting beauty of blooms top to bottom.

Donna Donabella 

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Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best:

 

June-Baptisia australis

May-Goat’s beard

April-Lupine

March-Trillium

February-Trout Lily

January-Hepatica

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Next up on the blog:  Next Monday will be time for a contemplative post about Patience.  As August slowly slides in, I will be highlighting  the harvest in the garden.  Look for that post next Thursday.  The first Monday in August will be time for another Gardens Eye Journal.  What will August hold in terms of blooms, veggies, critters and weather?  Drop by to see.  

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

I hope you will join me for my posts, every other Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

72 comments

  1. Karin/Southern Meadows says:

    I have been seeing a lot of this flower this summer…You know how there is a plant that you just start to see a lot of places that you didn’t notice much before? Great information! I will have to add this to my list of plants to get for my garden.

  2. Gail says:

    I do love this wildflower! I plant it every year, so often the winters drown it! My Wildflower Wednesday meme will be up this Wednesday! gail

    • Donna says:

      I have had to be careful where I place it since I have drowned it as well. I will be looking for it in my meadow as I have to replant whole areas due to an invasion of Common Teasel. It will look wonderful in the meadow I think. I’ll link in on Wed.

  3. Diana of Elephant's Eye says:

    one of 170 genera (all new to me) in the Eupatorieae – looked them up, strange flowers for the aster family, but they have only disc florets not the ray florets. A daisy heart exposed. Flowers on a spike make me expect a bulb. Fascinating.

  4. Cathy says:

    Lovely – I only heard of liatris earlier this year, and will put it on my list of plants to try for next year… Hope the slugs leave it alone! Really informative post and pretty photos too. Thanks Donna!

  5. Andrea says:

    Hi Donna, i also love the spiky flowers like your latris. That’s why i love looking at butterfly weeds, lupins, grape hyacinths, delphiniums! However, all of them we cannot grow here, so the more i want to see them at least in photos.

    • Donna says:

      Andrea it is fun to see what others grow that you can only wish for…I do that every time I visit your blogs. So glad you enjoyed liatris.

  6. Alistair says:

    Donna, I am a fan of these flowering plants like Liatris with their spiky blooms looking like Lavender on steroids. The bees do indeed love it. Interesting and enjoyable read which I have come to expect every time I visit. Have a great week, Alistair.

    • Donna says:

      Alistair, thank you. It means a lot to me that you find the post interesting and enjoyable. Liatris is like lavender on steroids isn’t it. Wishing you a lovely week in the garden.

  7. Sadun blogi says:

    Well, now I know why I’ve had some problems with my liatris this summer. It has had too much water! It’s been raining the whole summer. Earlier it’s been an easy perennial and no problems at all, but this year…

    Satu from Finland

    • Donna says:

      Satu welcome. So glad you stopped by and that I could help with your liatris. The drought has been a stressor on the liatris but it is still blooming although a bit smaller. But I have killed many with too much water. I could use some of your rain this summer as we are continuing in a drought. Hope you will stop by again soon.

  8. Donna says:

    I like the images you have today, Donna. The last photo was taken from a nice low angle, it shows off the Liatris very well. I am a bit surprised you started with the quote by Barragan. Are you familiar with this architect’s work? It is unlikely you would like it at all. The quote was in reference to his style of work.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Donna. So glad you enjoyed the photos. I do know a bit of Barragan’s work and you are right I don’t like much of it. But I liked the idea of what the quote said…just my take on the meaning is far from his I believe.

  9. PlantPostings says:

    Liatris is one of my favorites, too, Donna! Mine are finished blooming now, but they were stalwarts while they lasted. I love that first photo at the top of your post–it’s stunning!

    • Donna says:

      Beth how nice of you to say so….Mine were brave but they did not bloom as long or grow as tall due to the drought…of course many of my flowers have bloomed quickly in the drought.

  10. Cat says:

    Thanks for so much detailed information about Liatris. I was gifted with a corm accidentally. A neighbor brought me oxblood lily bulbs and there was a liatris in with them. When the foliage started coming up I hoped it was liatris. It’s not blooming yet (probably too shady) but I hope it will. It’s so pretty and I’d like it to multiply. I guess I’ll move it to more sun this winter.

  11. igardendaily says:

    Hi Donna,

    Gorgeous photos of liatris. You know, I had forgotten about it! That is why I like reading other people’s blogs and what they are growing. I have grown it before in two other gardens (the purple kind) and liked it but had kinda forgotten about it. Based on all of the wonderful info you provided, I think it would grow very well here in zone 6. I’ll look for some this Fall!

    • Donna says:

      Katarina thank you for your kind comment….the slugs leave mine alone. I don’t see it having any pest issues which is the mark of a great plant….give it a try!

  12. tina says:

    I did not know liatris was in the aster family. You teach me so much. I have it in my perennial border but it does not bloom very long and doesn’t make such a big impact. Nonetheless the butterflies like it so it stays around. It looks quite lovely in your garden!

    • Donna says:

      Well aren’t you so kind Tina…I find in the heat in my garden that liatris spicata is a short bloomer if it doesn’t have some shade and regular water.

  13. Stacy says:

    Donna, your liatris with the rudbeckia is just beautiful! What a vibrant color combination. I would never have thought of liatris being in the aster family, but seeing the seed heads, the family resemblance comes out a little more. Interesting post as always!

    • Donna says:

      Stacy I have to say that Mother Nature helped with the combo…the rudbeckias were strays from the meadow…last year the liatris bloomed with the orange echinacea and caused another wonderful combo…the purple spikes in the sun just stand right out. I was surprised they were part of the aster family too…So glad you enjoyed the post!

  14. Skeeter says:

    As Tina states, it does not have longevity in the bloom dept here in GA either. The Voles ate all the bulbs one year and I was missing them for several years in my garden. This past fall I planted 75 bulbs and they gave me a nice show in early summer. I hope they survive the jaws of death this winter and return next year…

    • Donna says:

      Skeeter how amazing 75 bulbs…I bet the voles are the cause of many of mine being missing…they are the jaws of death in winter gobbling up bulbs of all kinds.

  15. Jean says:

    Donna, I have Liatris spicata ‘Floristan White’ in my garden, and I love it. It hasn’t begun to bloom yet, but the flowers at the top look as though bloom is imminent. I also have the purple Liatris scariosa in my garden, but it has not done well this year. I’m not sure whether it got eaten by slugs or the resident woodchuck, but it was pretty much eaten back to the ground. I’m hoping it will stage a comeback next year.

    • Donna says:

      Oh Jean how frustrating….I also have a scariosa that is going to bloom soon…it did much better than spicata this year…the white spicata are just such a lovely delicate flower.

    • Donna says:

      Oh Michelle you would love it in your garden and there are other varieties that flower a bit differently…it means a lot that you enjoy the flower features!

  16. Patrick says:

    Oh I know liatris living in Kansas. Never grown but admired because I didn’t know long the one stalk lasted and what was left after it flowered. But they certainly are beautiful.

  17. RamblingWoods says:

    Of course I didn’t know what it was until you said blazing star..I never knew I would have to learn latin at my age to understand plant and animal names. Glad you hear you got some rain..still waiting here.. it is awful….Michelle

    • Donna says:

      Oh Michelle I have to do so much research as I still do not know the Latin but I am getting better….amazing what we can learn at our age 🙂

  18. Janet, The Queen of Seaford says:

    I have Liatris for the first time. This is my second season and it bloomed very early and hasn’t done much else since. Hoping to have it reseed some for next year and be more pleased with the staying power of the bloom time. I love the blooms when in flower.

    • Donna says:

      Janet I know this year those in more sun were a bit stressed and bloomed fast due to the drought. Those in part shade though looked a bit better. I have found they do have staying power as long as there is not a prolonged drought. Of course there are varieties that will take more heat and drought.

  19. GirlSprout says:

    I like the way that you captured the light in the last photo. I’ve been on the fence about liatris (gayfeather). It’s sold at two or three nurseries in Santa Fe, but I can’t decide if it might need too much water for me.

  20. Libby says:

    Liatris is cool – I did not know much about it before. I’ve seen the purple before, but no other color. That close up of the silvery white one is really good!

  21. Indie says:

    I’ve seen Liatris a lot around here. It’s such a great plant for wildlife, but I can’t decide if I want it in the garden or not – for some reason I have a weird hangup about how it blooms from top down instead of bottom up!

  22. Dee Nash (@reddirtramblin) says:

    A great choice! I love liatris, but it’s a bit hard to grow here. Although I see it throughout our prairies, we find, in the garden, it doesn’t like the conditions. I think it was leaner soil with lots of drainage. We have tons of clay. What purple beauties you have though.~~Dee

    • Donna says:

      Dee I agree it grows best where I have amended the clay soil. The meadow here is full off nasty clay but I am ripping out some invasives and amending so perhaps I can get it to grow there.

  23. catmint says:

    Have I ever seen anything so lovely and unique as the liatris flower? Definitive answer: Never! Thanks for this post Donna. I find the colour combo irresistible and adore the shape. I’ll watch out for them here. So far I don’t think I’ve seen any.

    • Donna says:

      There are many different varieties so perhaps there will be one coming your way. They do look so nice just poking up in the middle of rudbeckia or daisies…I hope to add more to my meadow!

  24. Rose says:

    Wonderful information, Donna! I didn’t realize liatris could be used in potpourri–I’ll have to try that. I planted some corms last year for the first time, and I must say it’s one of the easiest plants to grow. It makes such a nice vertical accent in the garden; I even like the fuzzy faded blooms later in the season. Definitely a plant that I would recommend, too!

    • Donna says:

      Rose I love the faded flowers too and when they become silvery in fall….they are easy to grow if you make sure you put them in the right spot…sometimes I try them in a spot and then it floods. Glad you enjoyed all the information!

  25. Yael from Home Garden Diggers says:

    Thanks for this wonderful post on Liatris. This is truly a lovely plant. Xeric and a nice spiky plant for the garden. Mine are just now beginning to bloom and have gotten Very tall this year. Love them.

    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

  26. Liz says:

    Hi Donna,

    I have only a few Liatris; this isn’t for lack of wanting more though as on a few occasions I have planted more bulbs/corms and nothing has materialised. However this year I planted 20 whites and I have noticed a number have survived the rain and slugs and I should have at least 5… Haha. Hardly a good success rate, no?

    But they are lovely and the Bees love them, so they’re worth the hassle imo 🙂

    • Donna says:

      I agree they are worth it Liz. I found that I was planting them in less than ideal conditions…some grew and others didn’t…but those that have grown are priceless. I need more too!!

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