The beautiful purple spikes of Blazing Star add color and interest to any butterfly garden, with stacks of small fuzzy flowers that are full of nectar. This bloom draws butterflies and other pollinators in droves, and hummingbirds are known to swing by for a drink too.
Blazing Star (Liatris sp.) is part of the Aster family (Asteraceae), and the 50 or species of this genus are all native to North America. The most common species you’ll find in cultivation is Liatris spicata, sometimes known as Gayfeather, and there are multiple cultivars available including some with pink and white flowers. Dwarf varieties are good for smaller gardens, since Blazing Star can grow up to 4 feet tall. L. spicata is suited to zones 3 – 8, and requires regular water to flower best.
L. spicata can be difficult to grow in the Deep South due to its intolerance of high heat and humidity. Fortunately, there are other Blazing Star species available for a wide range of growing conditions – your best bet is to seek out the species that are native to your area. Liatris is somewhat difficult to grow from seed; instead, buy them as corms (similar to bulbs) and plant them in the spring for blooms in late summer and fall.
Blazing Star is a natural in the butterfly garden, where it should be planted along the back of beds or in the center for interest. Plan to provide some support in more formal garden settings, as the stems have a tendency to fall over, especially after heavy rains. The dwarf varieties make excellent cutting flowers, and most folks report that liatris is generally deer-resistant. Give it a try in your butterfly garden and see how it works for you!