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Blazing Star sometimes called ‘Gayfeather’, is the name given to many species in the Genus Liatris. The term ‘Blazing Star’ has been associated with spiritual and mystical practices including Freemasonry from times long ago. Plants are versatile, easy to grow and readily available commercially. They are native to most of Eastern North America. The tall columns of pink to purple flowers produce lovely focal points in the perennial garden. The individual spikes arise from a shoot baring a spindle of soft narrow leaves. The 2-4-foot-tall blooms begin flowering at the top and develop downward over several weeks like a slow-motion ball drop on New Years Eve. Blooms appear in August and September for three to four weeks. They are often used as cut flowers.
Most Liatris species perform best in full sun and well-drained soil types. Liatris spicata, Dense Blazing Star also does well in wetter soils. Nursery plants usually bloom the first year, but seed grown plants will take a year for vegetative growth before blooming. Seeds that are cold stratified should sprout in three to six weeks. Direct fall and winter sowing normally yields good results. Once established Liatris thrives without supplemental fertilizer or water. They may be subject to herbivory.
Wildly attractive to butterflies they are also visited by bees and hummingbirds. Liatris is rich in nectar and pollen. Some birds will feed on the seeds in the fall. They are host plants to several inconspicuous moth species. In the fall, once dry, seeds are easily harvested. Plants may benefit from division after several years as clumps expand to expose an empty center.
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