How to Plant and Grow Blazing Star Flowers (Liatris Spicata)

Liatris spicata

Are you looking for a hardy perennial to add a bold splash of reliable color and dramatic form to your summer garden?

After the exuberant growth of spring and early summer, our gardens can slow down and sag a bit, especially when extended spells of hot weather set in.

As the low moisture and high heat conditions continue, grasses go into dormancy, new foliage slows to a crawl, and many plants conserve energy by restricting blooms – leaving gardens looking tired and spent.

Purple blazing stare flower stalks in bloom with a background of other flowers.

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But there’s a clever way to defy the oppression of summer’s heat:

By planting native species, such as L. spicata.

Commonly called blazing star, gayfeather, or prairie star, L. spicata is a versatile North American plant with plenty of ornamental allure.

Noted for their tall, stately plumes of amethyst or white and delicate grass-like foliage, this durable wildflower appeals to the beginner and experienced gardener alike.

A horizontal image of the purple flowers of blazing star growing in the garden.
Try growing Liatris spicata for a later summer and drought resistant perennial in your garden. Photo by Lorna Kring.

Easy to grow and propagate, it’s a low-maintenance gem that blazes in the dog days of summer while other plants wilt from the heat.

Join us now as we look at how to add this pretty prairie stalwart to your garden!

Cultivation and History

Native to the prairies and meadows of Eastern North American, L. spicata is a hardy perennial that produces narrow, grass-like leaves and tall spikes of vibrant purple, bottlebrush flowers.

Blooming from mid-summer to autumn, this clump-forming perennial belongs to the Asteraceae, or aster family, and the Liatris genus is composed of approximately 40 species.

Plants grow from a corm, forming large, tuberous roots that are hardy in Zones 3 to 9. In spring, delicate grassy foliage is followed by sturdy stalks topped with striking, feathery flowers of vibrant purple or white.

Long flower heads are comprised of multiple, mini florets that bloom from top to bottom, and cover about the top third of each flower stalk.

Close up of a single purple flower stalk from blazing star plant pictured on a soft focus background.
Need a drought tolerant perennial? Look no further than blazing star. These heat loving plants also attract plenty of pollinators. Photo by Lorna Kring.

Growth is upright, and a full stand takes up little garden space. Flower stems rarely need staking unless grown in overly moist, rich soil.

The fine textured foliage remains attractive all summer. In the fall, leaves and stalks turn a rich orangey bronze with wheat-colored seed heads.

Larger clumps benefit from division every few years to prevent crowding and dead spots forming in the center.

A favorite of florists, it’s long-lasting as a cut flower and makes an attractive addition to containers, cutting gardens, flower beds, and naturalized or informal plantings.

The distinctive flower spikes grow one to five feet tall and are magnets for numerous pollinators including native bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Local and migrating birds will also visit as they enjoy the fruit of fall-ripening seeds.

Roots of L. spicata have long been used by Native Americans for a variety of ailments including the treatment of abdominal pain, colic, snake bite, and swelling.


Blazing star can be propagated from division of corms and tuberous roots, and from seed.

By Division

  1. Dig around the clump when leaves first emerge in spring, then lift out with a spade.
  2. Gently rinse off the soil to expose the tuberous root mass.
  3. Using a sharp, clean knife, cut the roots into sections, ensuring each section has roots and a growing bud or leaf.
  4. Break off any small bulbils, or baby corms.
  5. Sprinkle cut divisions with a fungicide such as garden sulfur.
  6. Plant tuberous roots five inches deep in a starburst pattern, spacing new pieces 8-16 inches apart.
  7. Plant bulbils two to three inches deep and four to eight inches apart.
  8. Fill in planting hole and water promptly, until the top six inches of soil are moist.
  9. To keep down weeds and conserve moisture, cover with a thick two- to four-inch layer of dry mulch, such as hay or dry grass clippings.
Dug up blazing star (Liatris spicata) bulbs laying on a wooden table for dividing.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

By Seed

L. spicata can also be started from seed.

Seeds are viable for less than 12 months and can be collected in the fall and direct sown into the garden right away – if you have cold winters. They need extensive cold exposure in a moist environment to germinate the following spring.

If you don’t have time to plant in place, sow in flats and leave the flats outdoors over the winter for germination and spring planting.

If your winters are mild, collect seeds in the fall and store in a cool, dry spot. Approximately 12 weeks before direct sowing outdoors, mix seeds with moist vermiculite, peat, or sand in a resealable bag. Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to plant.

Plant cold-treated seeds outdoors when the weather has warmed to around 65°F.

The dead seed head of a blazing star flower.

Alternatively, after 12 weeks of cold, pot up seeds into four-inch containers to sprout. Use a potting mix of equal parts moist sand, compost, and vermiculite and lightly spread the seeds on top. Cover with a bare dusting of potting mix.

Place in a cool, bright location, water regularly, and plant seedlings into the garden after the last frost date for your region.

Plants started from seed will bloom in their second year of maturity.

Best Growing Conditions

Like a true prairie belle, cultivation of L. spicata is straightforward.

Most cultivars prefer full sun, or some light shade, and well-drained soil of lean to medium fertility. Good drainage is a must, as soggy conditions can cause root rot.

A shovel is being used to plant freshly divided blazing star bulbs in the earth.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

Plant in cool spring weather to allow young plants to get established.

  1. Prepare the soil by loosening to a depth of eight inches and working in a one to two-inch layer of organic matter, such as aged compost or manure.
  2. Amend the soil with sand or fine grit to improve drainage if needed.
  3. Create a planting hole twice as wide and slightly deeper than the root ball . Mix in some bone meal.
  4. Add the plants, fill in the hole, and firm in place.
  5. Water to settle and water regularly until established.

Drought tolerance in one of blazing star’s highly desirable traits, as the water-retentive corms and tuberous roots can sustain them through dry periods.

A single second year purple Liatris flower in bloom.
Liatris will bloom the second year after planting by seed although the flowers will not be as big as a mature specimen. Photo by Lorna Kring.

And while they need well-draining soil, they can happily tolerate more moisture than many other perennials, making them suitable for rain gardens as well.

Plants grown from tuberous divisions will bloom in the first year of growth, while those started from bulbils can take two years to flower.

Growing Tips

Blazing star is a tough plant that thrives naturally in a harsh prairie environment. But in dry weather, new plantings should be watered weekly until a strong root system is established.

As with all bulbs and corms, avoid over-watering.

After the first few months, your Liatris will need little attention. Relatively drought tolerant, they’re mostly pest and disease resistant, and deer tend to ignore them as well.

A good choice to attract pollinators, L. spicata is rich in nectar and pollen. Plant some in open areas to broadcast their appeal to flying insects.

Ripe seedheads provide a rich source of food for birds such as goldfinches and migrating songbirds.

Pruning and Maintenance

Foliage and stems can be cleaned up any time after dying and turning shades of bronze, brown, and orange. But they add a nice touch to the fall and winter garden and can be left in place until spring cleanup.

In early spring, remove any vegetative debris and side dress established clumps by working in organic matter such as mature compost, humus, or manure.

Reliable Cultivars to Consider

Only one species, L. spicata, aka blazing star, is easily found in garden centers, but it has several reliable cultivars.

A close up square image of a butterfly feeding from a blazing star flower.

Liatris Spicata

You can find 50-seed packets available at Earthbeat Seeds.

Blazing Stars Mix

Blazing Stars Mix is a blend of densely packed purple and white flower heads, combining white and deep, blue-purple flowers.

A mix of white and medium pink liatris flowers.

Blazing Stars Mix

Hardy in Zones 3 to 10, this bold combo grows 24 to 36 inches tall and blooms from mid-summer to fall.

Pick up a package of 10 large bulbs online from Burpee.

Floristan Violet

‘Floristan Violet’ offers multiple stalks of amethyst colored plumes that begin blooming in early summer.

Floristan Violet Liatris growing in a mass planting.

‘Floristan Violet’

Hardy in Zones 3 to 9, this heat and humidity-resistant cultivar shines in the summer garden.

Order bare root plants online from Burpee.


‘Kobold’ is a popular choice in a more compact form.

Liatris 'Kobold' with purple flower stalks growing in a clump.


Hardy in Zones 3 to 9, this cultivar grows 18 to 36 inches in height and handles heat and humidity with ease.

Bare root plants can be ordered online from Burpee.

Other Choices

Home Depot also offers an online selection with a 12-pack of Blazing Star Mixed bulbs, combining white and purple flowers. Hardy in Zones 3 to 9, mature plants reach a height of 48 inches.

Seeds of L. aspera ‘Gayfeather’ can also be purchased online, like this 500-gram packet that’s available from True Leaf Market. Sow indoors or out, and flowers will appear in their second year.

Close up of the flowers of the 'spiked gayfeather' liatris.


Other species, like pinkscale blazing star (L. elegans) and meadow blazing star (L. ligulistylis) may be available for home cultivation through local botanical gardens, specialty mail-order nurseries, and wildflower centers.

Managing Pests and Diseases

Insect problems are rare, but L. spicata are used as food plants by the larvae for several species of flower moths, including the rare glorious flower moth (Schinia gloriosa), and the bleeding flower moth (S. sanguinea).

Both of these feed exclusively on plants from the Liatris genus.

Infestations are not usually problematic, and larvae can be hand-picked or blasted off with a strong spray from the hose.

Blazing star can be subject to some fungal diseases, including leaf spot and powdery mildew.

Remove any infected foliage, reduce watering, and allow the top two inches of soil to dry out. Divide and respace if necessary.

Adequate spacing of plants allows sufficient sunlight and air circulation, which helps keep fungi problems to a minimum.

Best Uses in the Garden

Liatris makes a tall, eye-catching statement in flower beds, containers, cutting gardens, and naturalized settings.

A valuable addition to perennial gardens, these plants provide a reliable vertical contrast to mounded or broad-leaved plants like hostas and are equally at home in the meadow or naturalized areas.

The purple flowers contrast nicely with any orange or yellow-flowered plants such as black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta), coreopsis, daylilies (Hemerocallis), or marigolds (Tagetes).

Or for a bold sweep of color, mix with other purples and vibrant reds from plants like Gladiolus, Osteospermum, Pelargonium, and Verbena.

Purple blazing star (Liatris spicata) mixed with red flowers in a cottage garden located in Vancouver.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

The elegant, wand-like flowers bloom in shades of amethyst, pink, or white. Stunning and long-lasting in summer flower arrangements, they’re a must-have in the cutting garden.

L. spicata also has the presence to stand alone as a specimen plant and is particularly effective in large stands and drifts. And as an indigenous species, blazing star is robust enough to hold its own when planted in meadows or naturalized settings with other wildflowers.

Rich in nectar and pollen, the flowers attract a wide range of butterflies, making them right at home in the butterfly garden.

They make a handsome companion for ornamental grasses and sedges. And in casual gardens, they mix well with other summer favorites like butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), blanket flower (Gaillardia), and coneflower (Echinacea).

Dried liatris makes an attractive addition to dried flower arrangements as well.

To dry, harvest the stalks when about 1/2 to 2/3 of the flowers are blooming. Hang upside down in a cool, dry location for three to four weeks. Or use a flower desiccant like silica gel to dry and preserve.

Liatris Quick Reference Growing Chart

Plant Type:Perennial, flowering herbaceous plantFlower Color:Purple, lavender, pink, white
Native to:North AmericaTolerance:Drought, poor and/or clay soils
Hardiness (USDA Zone):3-9Maintenance:Minimal
Bloom Time:July-AugustSoil Type:Various
Exposure:Full sunSoil pH:Acidic to alkaline, 5.6-7.5
Time to Maturity:2 years when started from seedSoil Drainage:Well-draining
Spacing:15 inches, may vary by cultivarCompanion Planting:Black-eyed susans, coreopsis, daylilies, marigolds, verbena
Planting Depth:1/4 inch (seeds)Uses:Centerpiece, mass plantings, cutting, dried arrangements
Height:2-4 feet, varies by cultivarAttracts:Birds, butterflies, bees
Spread:15-18 inchesFamily:Asteraceae
Water Needs:Low to moderateGenus:Liatris
Pests & Diseases:Glorious flower moth, bleeding flower moth, leaf spot, powdery mildewSpecies:spicata

Pride of the Prairies

Now that you know about the stellar properties of this pride of the prairies, do you think you might add a stand of blazing star to your garden?

Purple flower stalks of blazing start grow with other flowering perennials in a cottage garden.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

If you have any questions about growing this pretty wildflower, drop us a line in the comments below.

And be sure to check our articles on other indigenous North American perennials that thrive in hot summer conditions.

All of these plants are winners with their easy-to-care-for habits and long-lasting color!

Photo of author


A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

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Karen R
Karen R (@guest_6742)
4 years ago

I purchased Blazing Star in full bloom in May in Florida. Should it be deadheaded?

Pam Conley
Pam Conley (@guest_7049)
4 years ago

Can I plant liatris in an ajuga bed? Ajuga blooms early and liatris late but I didn’t know if one would smother the other.

Sbc (@guest_7314)
4 years ago

I live in a place with frigid winters (Alberta, Canada). Can I grow these in wooden planter boxes? And should I take the box inside every winter? I am assuming that these are perennial plants normally if grown in the ground itself.

Ruth (@guest_7339)
4 years ago

Wow Lorna, great article. I am about to attempt my first ‘division’ lol. Thanks for the great info and pictures, esp. the advice re companion plantings.

Kitty (@guest_8428)
3 years ago

I was given a bag of 40 Liatris Blazing Star (it is late June). Can I plant them now?

Fatima (@guest_8658)
3 years ago

I planted blazing star and it is growing great. Though I noticed that a flower spike appeared and it drooped a little bit and then straightened up again. I wanted to know why did that happen? And secondly, how long does a flower spike take to fully bloom? It has been 2 weeks since the spike appeared yet there are no flowers. Thanks.

Mary G. Haisch
Mary G. Haisch (@guest_8771)
Reply to  Lorna Kring
3 years ago

Hello, have started a blazing star in a planter, happy to say I have a bud coming. My question is, I want to transplant the blazing star to my garden as the pot is only a medium size. Should I wait till the first bud blooms or is it okay to transplant in the garden as the bud is just starting, with no color showing as of yet?

Elizabeth Keathley
Elizabeth Keathley (@guest_8870)
3 years ago

Thanks for this informative article. I have a couple of these in my garden and was not sure what they are. Very pretty though. I would like to get more now that I know more about them.

Sheila W
Sheila W (@guest_8936)
3 years ago

We have just started a pollinator garden and planted our first blazing stars a month ago. They had beautiful purple blossoms, but they didn’t last very long at all. I cut the stem with the dead blooms off just below the bottom blossoms. Was I supposed to only remove the blossoms themselves?

Lucy Heredia
Lucy Heredia (@guest_8952)
3 years ago

Hi Lorna, I would love to grow these beautiful plants, but I live in Houston, Texas and is very hot and humid in the summertime. I’m just not sure how well they would do in my area. Also, do you think it’s better to plant from seed or baby plants? I will appreciate your advice.


Joyce Lake
Joyce Lake (@guest_8972)
3 years ago

I have some of these seeds. Can I plant them now in pots to sell? Will they be able to be transplanted now?