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