Liatris spicata Garden Plant Growing Guide

Guide to Growing Blazing Star Plant (Button snakewort, Dense blazing star, Prairie gay feather)

Liatris spicata is an herbaceous perennial that is commonly referred to as Dense Blazing Star or Button Snakewort. Plants are native to the prairies, marsh regions, and meadows of North America.

Liatris spicata
Liatris spicata by Drew Avery.

The Liatris genus contains 37 members, other well known species include Liatris aspera (Rough blazing star) and Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie Blazing Star).

Dense Blazing Star blooms
Bee visiting Dense Blazing Star blooms, photograph by yewchan; CC.

As a member of the 23,000 strong Asteraceae (Compositae) / Composita family it is closely related to species belonging to genera such as Ammobium, Crepis, Helichrysum, Tanacetum, and Ursinia.

Liatris spicata is a medium-tall plant, with showy spikes of purple flowers, that looks great as part of a border.

Blazing Star
Dense Blazing Star by Patrick Standish.

It is often grown for its deer-resistant properties, and to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.

In addition to borders, it also looks great as part of a Prairie / Meadow wild-life landscape, and makes a great fresh or dried cut flower. Cultivars are available with pink and white flowers.

Liatris spicata Description

Grow Dense blazing star

Blazing Star is a fairly tall plant, reaching about 36 to 48 inches (90–120 cm) in height. It has a spread of 10 to 20 inches (25–50 cm).

It is upright and clump-forming. One or more stalks may arise from the tufted base.

Smaller cultivars are available that reach heights of 18 to 24 inches (45–60 cm).

Leaves are linear and grass-like, and can reach lengths of 12 inches (30 cm) at the base, getting smaller further up the stalk. The leaves are green from spring to autumn.

Liatris spicata has long-lasting blooms from summer to the start of fall / autumn. Purple flowers appear on terminal spikes and open from the top downwards.

Blazing star cultivar
White Blazing Star plant cultivar 'Floristan Weiss' by Gail Frederick.

The flower-heads are tightly set, and have a tufted, feather-like appearance: this give the plant one of its common names – Prairie gay feather.

Liatris Blazing Star Plant Video Growing Guide

The following Liatris spicata Blazing Star Plant Genus video provides fantastic advice on growing and caring for these beautiful garden plants.

How to Grow Liatris spicata

Liatris spicata Growing and Care Guide

  • Seeds are easiest sown in the autumn as they require cold to germinate. Spring sown seeds should first be nicked with a knife to scarify, and stratified at 40°F (4°C) for about six to ten weeks before sowing. Simply cover seeds once sown. It usually takes three to four weeks to germinate.
  • Space at about 12 to 18 (30–45 cm). It usually takes a couple of years for plant to fill out to their full spread.
  • Plants should be located in a sunny part of the garden that has a moist well-drained soil. They do not tolerate standing water or soggy soils. Good drainage is essential for surviving the winter. The soil can be light to average, but will perform best in a fertile slightly acidic soil.

  • Although Liatris thrive in a moist soil, they are fairly drought-tolerant (though may develop droopiness). Supply an adequate amount of water to keep soil moist, but do not soak Blazing Star plants.
  • Stake plants to prevent stem breakage: smaller cultivars such as Liatris spicata Kobold and the white flowered Floristan Weiss do not require staking.

  • Can be propagated by division of tuberous roots in the spring.
  • Deadhead before seed-set to prevent volunteer seedlings, or let seeds develop to attract finches.
  • Cut back to the ground in the winter.

  • If you plan to take cut flowers from Liatris spicata then harvest the flower spikes when around 50–60% have opened. Strip the stems of leaves and then hang upside-down for three weeks in a dry dark place that has excellent air-circulation. For best flower color retention dry in sand or silica-gel.
  • Liatris spicata is not usually susceptible to pests and diseases, gray mold and verticillium wilt are possible, and rabbits may eat leaves.

Liatris spicata white flowers
Close up of white Liatris spicata flowers, photograph by Manu; CC.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Liatris spicata plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Ageratum houstonianum and Gazania plants.