Blazing Star: How to Grow Blazing Star
Every summer I find my garden looking tired and dull, probably because of the low moisture and high heat conditions. After the vigorous growth of my plants during spring, grasses started to go dormant and new foliage breaks its development, keeping the plants from blooming. This has largely affected the appearance of my garden.
That is why when I found out that there is a flower called Blazing Star that can add beautiful color and dramatic form, and create plenty of ornamental designs to one’s summer garden, I was immediately drawn to it. Moreover, the easy planting method, care, and maintenance are a bonus to consider this plant in a garden.
Liatris Spicata, also known as Blazing Star, is probably one of the easiest and most versatile plants to grow in a garden. It grows from knolls of thin, grass-like leaves measuring about 1- to 5 feet tall. Liatris flowers have tall, spikey, and fuzzy purple blossoms, while some vary from white to rose colors. Its foliage will shine green throughout the season before changing bronze in fall.
Geographically, it is commonly found within the sunflower family native in North America most specifically in Canada, United States, Bahamas, and Mexico. It can survive in almost all seasons - even in perennial winter.
With its ease of growth and care, this low maintenance blossom is a beginner’s and experienced grower’s favorite for it can still keep its aura ablaze amidst the dog days of summer where most other plants wilt due to extremely warm temperature.
Facts About Blazing Star
Blazing star belongs in the Eupatorieae tribe of the aster family, a plant family with distinct flower disc-shaped flowerhead without ray florets. It is closely associated to the species of Garberia, which is endemic to the state of Florida.
Blazing Star is native to the meadows and prairies of Eastern North America. It is characterized by narrow and tall grass-spiked leaves with vibrant purple flowerhead, which is almost shaped like a bottlebrush.
Its blooming period is set by mid-summer to autumn, yet it can also withstand extreme heat during the summer days. It starts growing from a corm, which forms large and tuberous roots. During the spring season, it is seen to be delicately grass-green foliage with long and sturdy stalks and vibrant purple bottle-shaped flowers.
Blazing star loves to grow abundantly in partial to full sun with medium to dry soil moisture. It occurs naturally in dry sandy areas. Although it differs depending on variety, blazing star may have a preference in soil type, but it can be planted and survive anywhere in a garden.
Blazing star’s height is typically tall. In fact, it is known for its sturdy vertical appearance, which stands out even from larger plants. Typically, its height ranges from one (1) foot to six (6) feet, depending on the species. It can also stretch up to one (1) foot to one and a half (1.5) feet wide.
The leaves are long and tapered, sometimes curled-up. It ranges from three inches to two feet in size. The sizes vary depending on the location in the stem. The largest leaves can be found at the bottom part and decrease in size as you move upward. The leaves may also widen up to 1 inch in diameter, mirroring the spikey shape of its flower stems.
Fuzzy of bright and vibrant purple bottlebrush-like flower is the usual trademark of Liatris plants. However, it may still vary depending on species. Other flowers may be as pure as white, and others may be two-toned, ranging from rose color on the base to purple color on top.
Blazing star’s flowers have varying colors, depending on the variety. Some may have two colors from base upward, creating a perfect ombre effect. These flowers may be as vibrant as purple or rosy to purple, or as clean and pure as white. There are some varieties that show a touch of yellow color, depending on how much sunlight exposure it gets.
Blazing Star Varieties
Different varieties of blazing star are to be found in different regions especially in United States. It varies in color and height depending on the soil and weather conditions of its native setting. Although blazing star varieties can be quite similar to each other, the list below will tackle its similarities and especially its uniqueness to each other.
Dotted Blazing Star (Liatris punctata)
Dotted blazing star has round shaped flowers with colors of pink from the bottom to purple on the head. Its head measures about ½ to ¾ inch long packed in clusters of up to 10 inches long. The head is also comprised of three to eight disk flowers, which are shaped like stars with a long curve dividing the center.
The leaves are very narrow that make it look like some sort of grass about 4 inches long and ¼ inch wide. The leaves are also full of short white hair all over the skin like dots of resin. That is why it’s called dotted blazing star.
Floristan White (Liatris spicata)
Floristan white is a kind of blazing star that is unlike common ones. It has two-foot white spike blossoms. Each of its flowers is packed with blossoms rich with nectar, which will surely attract butterflies. Each Floristan white can produce multiple flower spikes that make a strong upward spirit in a garden.
Caring for this plant is easy for it is considered low-maintenance. It may extend up to 24 - 48 inches tall and widen up to 12 – 18 inches when matured.
Kobold (Liatris spicata)
Kobold blazing star is a gay feather cultivar with free-flowering close-packed style. The stems are long yet covered with long thin leaves. During the summer, its flowers bloom to be rosy purple with spiky features, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.
Usually found in Ontario and Quebec in Canada, Massachusetts, Florida, Wisconsin, and Louisiana in the US, this species wants moist sandflats and sunny sites. It is smaller in size, ranging a height from 18 to 30 inches tall, yet can produce several sturdy stems. Another fun fact is the name Kobold is derived from the word Goblin because of the big-headed flowers it produces.
Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)
Rough blazing star is planted best in areas with dry to medium moist soil condition. That’s why it is often associated with jack pine woodland or oak. It is a late bloomer as it takes a while to grow from seeds, but it can grow flowers in its second or third year.
Similar to common blazing stars’ characteristics, rough blazing star has vivid violet color flower standing in a stalk of 2-4 feet tall, and narrowed basal leaves extending up to 6 inches from the base.
September Glory (Liatris scariosa)
Stalks with reddish purple flowers is a trademark of September Glory. Its long lasting color makes it a great choice even during summer or even frost season. Fine and long spike grass-like leaves become longer in summer, rising to about 45 centimeters from its base. This type is considered to be the most productive and efficient one for it can withstand heat, cold, and even drought.
How to Grow Blazing Star
It may be surprising but planting and taking care of Liatris plants is definitely easy, plus it gives many benefits and uses in the garden. Although every other variety of blazing star may prefer different soil conditions, you can actually start planting it anywhere in your garden – in beds, containers or borders.
Blazing star doesn’t require a specific type of soil. This means you can grow it on soil of any fertility level, though it prefers slight acid or neutral soil pH level. Ensure quick drainage to prevent the corms from rotting.
Although Liatris plants commonly want full sun, it does not mean they cannot tolerate a little shade. It can tolerate both, but to ensure best and healthy results, always place your blazing star on where the sun shines the most.
Temperature & Humidity
Blazing star can withstand different seasons - from major heat to major cold temperatures. It can withstand drought, yet it can also tolerate the cold. However, it is best to give it more pampering before the winter starts, and make sure the soil will not get any wetter to keep roots from rotting. It is a must, especially in areas with fast-changing seasons.
Watering does not require much work. Just provide adequate water, especially to newly planted seeds and corns as needed for the first weeks from germination period. After the first few weeks, it will no longer require that much water. In fact, just give the blazing star little water and allow drying of soil before watering again. Before the winter season starts, make sure the soil is near to drying as too much of water in the soil can rot the corms and the roots.
There is also no need to secure it from getting infected by pests because blazing star plants are proven to be pest resistant. Thus, fertilizer is just optional. It can be added to the hole during planting time for a good start. However, you may experience powdery mild dew and leaf spots in some seasons, but it isn’t a big concern. To avoid deficiencies, you may want to consider avoiding lower areas exposed to water because too much wet soil can make the root rot easily.
If you want to push through with the fertilizing method, blazing star can be planted on a mixture of lime or horn meal and compost. However, during the August period, it should not receive fertilizers anymore.
Here is a quick and short guide for fertilizing your Liatris:
a. In a bed, slightly rake the compost for two weeks
b. During Spring: if not fertilized with compost, it may get a complete fertilizer during this season
c. Flower: You may also try giving the flowers some flower fertilizer once a year
The word pruning may sound tedious but in the case of blazing stars, the foliage and stems can be managed and cleaned-up anytime it’s already dry, and shades of brown, bronze and orange are slowly showing up on the stems. However, for me, I prefer to let it sit for a while during the fall and winter seasons, even until spring to add a nice touch of color to the garden. In the early days of spring, you can make use of the vegetative debris and other side dress clumps by creating an organic compost, manure, or humus.
Do you want good news? Mulching in blazing stars is not really necessary. But if you want to do mulching, you may start working before the ground freezes during the winter. Simply apply a light and airy mulch of maybe boughs of pine and you’re good to go. I do recommend mulching as it has a lot of benefits, especially when it’s done in a proper and organic way.
Mulching can provide soil microbes such as mycorrhizae, earthworms and nematode. These microbes help in improving the soil condition, thus letting the root to penetrate deeper into the soil. It also helps reduce moisture in soil and prevent the weeds from growing near your baby plants. Personally, I would recommend mulch of long leaf pine straw for it lasts longer in the garden compared to others.
There are two ways of propagating blazing star – by division or by seed. You may try propagating by division during the spring season. You would need to dig up large clumps and divide them every three to four years to provide adequate spacing and avoid overcrowding.
For those who are not fond of outside or backyard gardening, there is no need to worry because liatris seeds can also be propagated indoors. The good thing about this is you can monitor the germination more when it is planted indoors. Germination usually takes from 20 to a maximum of 45 days if ever the seeds are exposed to cold and moist conditions. After germination, they can be sowed outdoors during fall or early winter, which can add to letter results.
In terms of planting and blooming season, blazing stars are usually planted in early spring, yet in some areas, they are also planted during fall. It grows from being a typical corn into a full-bloom flower in late summer. What is more amazing is the fact that waiting will not take long since blazing stars can attain full-grown size in the same year it was planted.
Blazing Star Health Benefits
Liatris plant is beneficial to the body, especially in keeping the mind healthy. The plant offers relaxation, and acts as stimulant to the body. It is often seen as a symbol of bliss, joy, and happiness, and with thoughts of never giving up and even apology. The vibrancy of its colors, especially on its flowers and the sturdiness of its rich green foliage contribute to the overall aura of blazing star.
Uses of Blazing Star
Liatris plants are a total eye-catcher in the garden among all bunches of other flowers. It can also naturalize the mood of any setting. They give contrast to broad and wider plants because of their tall and bottle head flowers. The bold and vibrant purple or rosy flowers give a nice mix to other orange and yellow plants like marigolds, daylilies and others.
It can be also be a perfect contrast to big flowers in a flower bed or garden. Its long and sturdy stems make it stand out within a crowd of plants. Even if it is dried out from cutting, it can be preserved beautifully as dried flowers in your casual vase arrangements. Dried cuttings of blazing star can also give a nice touch for a summer wedding flower bouquet.
There is so much more to Liatris plant aside from its attractive physical properties. Liatris Spicata has proven medical benefits. Native Americans use this plant’s diuretic, sudorific, carminative, expectorant and stimulant properties. They also use the plant for treating abdominal pain, spasms, swelling, and even in snake bites. Moreover, even Cherokees used blazing star as an analgesic for treatment of back pain and limb pain. On the other hand, Menominees used blazing star for heart improvement.
At present, Liatris spicata is still being used medically in treatment of sore throat through gargle method, and as herbal insect repellent.
Blazing stars can also be beneficial to building a healthy butterfly garden for its flowers are rich in nectar and pollen - enough to attract butterflies and even other pollinators such as bees and birds. These insects are considered as pollinators, so it helps in improving pollination and cultivation in a garden and even in ecosystem as a whole.
Gardening requires a lot of knowledge and skills from sowing to watering, and even up to maintaining the garden’s health and beauty. Taking care of plants, from bare seeds to full-grown mature plants, will really be time consuming. Full dedication of effort, patience, and time is a must in planting if you really want to get the best results.
That is why it is safe to say that if you are just about to start off gardening, Blazing star can be your starter plant. It is very friendly for a beginner gardener because it does not require too much care as long as you make sure it gets adequate water from time to time once the soil is dry. It also grows in pretty much any type of soil, but you can still pamper it with a mixture of soil and organic matter to add extra nutrition and prevent the soil from getting too moist.
Basically, if you are looking for a plant to start your gardening, but does not make you worry about leaving them after planting, you may consider Liatris plants of any variety available to you. It is truly a low-maintenance beauty and I can affirm to that.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Blazing Star spread?
Blazing star does not spread on its own, but if you want a bunch of it in your garden, you can spread it yourself. The process is easy. Just divide the tubers during spring or fall season and grow them through seeds. Collect the seeds during fall, then plant it all way to the ground.
You may also keep the seeds in a resealable bag guaranteed with the right amount of moist vermiculite or earth soil, and store them in the fridge for about 12 weeks until they are ready to be planted. The seeds can be lodged and grown in a warm weather, approximately of around 20 Celsius.
Is Blazing Star edible?
Blazing star is not considered edible, but it has several benefits in terms of medicinal uses. Both the leaves and the roots can be used in treatments, especially for headache, abdominal pain, and sore throat.
How long does Blazing Star bloom?
Liatris plants can bloom in the same year of its germination. Imagine the time you can save in waiting just to see it full-grown. In the case of blazing star, it blooms usually in early summer to fall within the year after it was planted.
Liatris flowers bloom in about 70 to 90 days or for just three (3) months in total. Buds will start to sprout and bloom once the soil had increased its temperature typically during the month of May. If it’s planted in pots, it is better to place it outdoors to receive the needed heat to start blooming.