When the blazing star presents its purple-red or white inflorescences from July to September, it also acts as a butterfly magnet thanks to its rich nectar. The dense blazing star, as it is often called, reaches impressive heights of 100 cm (3 ft) and more, so that it is hard to miss in herbaceous borders. The unusual blossoms are accompanied by grassy, green foliage that is only dropped shortly before the first frost. It’s a good thing that the exotic-looking plant hardly demands any care and only gets a cut if the garden lover likes it.
Profile of blazing star:
Scientific name: Liatris spicata
Plant family: daisy family (Asteraceae)
Other names: dense blazing star, prairie gay feather
Sowing time / Planting time: end of April – beginning of May
Flowering period: July to September
Location: sunny to off-sun
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient-rich, humus-rich, calcipholous
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, bouquets, group planting, planters
Winter hardiness: hardy
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of blazing star
Origin and occurrence of blazing star
The blazing star (Liatris) are native to North America. Their natural habitat is wet meadows, paths and banks of water from the lowlands to the hills.
Plant order of blazing star
The genus belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae) and comprises about 40 species
Characteristics of the blazing star
The blazing star grows upright and is between 40 and 90 cm (16 and 36 in) high. It forms a basal leaf head and taut, upright growing, mostly unbranched leafy flower stems. It hibernates underground in a bulbous rhizome.
The narrow, lanceolate green leaves are arranged alternately along the flower stems. In the lower section of the stem, many leaves form a basal, grassy tuft.
The 20 cm (8 in) long spike-like racemes appear from July to September and consist of numerous small flower heads. Depending on the variety, they bloom pink, purple pink or white. What is special about the blazing star: In contrast to most other plants, it blooms with elongated inflorescences from top to bottom. Only after a few days the countless flower heads open.
Blazing star – cultivation and care
The blazing star is a true sun worshiper, so you should plant the perennial in a warm and sunny place in the garden.
The loose, nutrient-rich and humus-rich soil should not be too acidic, fresh to moist and should not dry out over a long period of time. The perennial does not tolerate waterlogging either – it is particularly hard on winter wetness. Therefore, pay attention to a good drainage of water.
If you already cultivate blazing star in your garden, collect the small nuts that appear on the withered inflorescences in autumn before pruning. When these fruits have dried, they release the seeds with light pressure. These are kept dry, cool and dark throughout the winter before they are sown directly at the intended location from the end of April / beginning of May.
Germination takes place quickly at a temperature of 18 °C (64 °F). If it is still a bit cooler at this time, it will take longer for the cotyledons and then the first leaves to appear. In the event of short-term frost on the ground, the attentive gardener puts a protective film over the young plants overnight.
The blazing star is absolutely frost hardy on well drained soils. When planting, be sure to mix in lots of sand and gravel on loamy soils to ensure good water drainage. If you provide the plants with some compost in the spring, they will last longer on poorer, sandy soils.
Propagation by division
Since the blazing star forms spherical or elongated rhizomes in the earth, it is ideally suited for propagation by division. The appropriate time of year for this is spring when the ground is no longer frozen. Dig out the rootstock and divide it into the individual, bulbous segments, which you then plant back into the bed. With this vegetative propagation method, it can also be propagated according to variety.
The division is also an excellent method of rejuvenation. Even if no propagation is intended, experts recommend sharing the splendor every 4 to 5 years to maintain their vitality.
Watering / Fertilization
The perennial requires a plentiful supply of water and nutrients so that the inflorescences with hundreds of small individual flowers develop in their full beauty.
Where no compost is available, blazing star is given a full fertilizer in the spring, after which it is supplied with a fertilizer for flowering plants every 14 days. Even if the soil around the perennial is mulched with organic material such as grass clippings or leaves, additional fertilizer should be administered at regular intervals.
If the blazing star is cut back to the height of the green leaves after the first flowering, it will – with a bit of luck and under the appropriate weather conditions – form another, possibly somewhat smaller flower. In early winter it can then be cut close to the ground because the perennial retreats in the root ball for the duration of the cold season. However, cutting is not absolutely necessary. Only if the garden friend feel disturbed by the withered flower spikes and leaves in the appearance of his beds.
Diseases and pests
Snails tend to avoid the blazing star, but voles like to eat their tubers. Illnesses are rare – powdery mildew, rust and leaf spot diseases can occasionally occur, but none of these are life-threatening for the plants.
As the blazing star is completely hardy, it does not require any special protective measures against frost and snow. Rather, the perennial retreats into its persistence organ in the earth to sprout again in the following spring. If bald frost develops over a longer period in winter (minus degrees without snow), it is advisable to give the plant a small dose of water so that it does not dry out. Where the blazing star is cultivated in the bucket, however, winter protection is required because there is a risk of the root ball freezing to death at very low frost temperatures.
In contrast, it is not advisable to drag the bucket into a winter quarters. The only important thing to note in this regard is to remove the winter protection in good time when the temperatures rise so that no mold is formed.
Use in the garden
In the classic perennial border, but also in the prairie garden, the blazing star is very well shown. You can combine them, for example, with ornamental grasses such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), coneflower, various types of phlox and varieties of sneezeweed. The variety ‘Kobold’ is also popular as a tub ornament on the terrace.
Like many daisies, blazing star is also valued as a durable cut flower. If the flowers have opened up to half on the pseudospiklet, this can be cut and used for a bouquet. Blazing stars tied to the bouquet are beautiful dried flowers – in this case wait for the cut until all the flowers are open. Then hang the flowers upside down in a well-ventilated place to dry.