How to Plant and Care for Blazing Star

Liatris, also called gayfeather or blazing star, is a perennial wildflower that has a long blooming period and is native to the eastern part of North America. It’s a member of the bigger, Asteraceae family, but it doesn’t have the daisy-like blooms most plants in this family produce. Instead, you get very unusual flower heads that have star-like, tiny blossoms that get arranged around a bottlebrush spire. The pure blazing star cultivars have bright purple flowers, but you can find white and pink too. It produces narrow, grasslike leaves that form a basal clump, and they take on a pretty bronze hue in the fall.

Blazing star typically gets planted from potted starts from a nursery or corms in the spring months, and they bloom until the first frost date. They typically flower during the first year, and it’s possible to start them from seeds if you’re ready to wait two weeks for the plants to flower.

1 Purple Blazing Star
Originally a royal purple flower, you can now find blazing star cultivars in shades of white and pink.

Blazing Star – Quick Overview

Attracts: Bees, birds, and butterflies
Bloom Time: July to August
Companion Plants: Daylily, black-eyed Susan, marigolds, and verbena
Exposure: Full sun
Family: Asteraceae
Flower Colors: Purple, white, and pink
Genus: Liatris
Hardiness Zones: Three to nine
Height: Two to four feet
Maintenance: Minimal
Native to: North America
Pests and Diseases: Glorious flower moth, leaf spot, and powdery mildew
Planting Depth: ¼ inch for seeds
Plant Type: Perennial, herbaceous flowering plant
Soil Drainage: Well
Soil pH: 5.6 to 7.5 or acidic to alkaline
Soil Type: Various
Spacing: 15 inches by varies by cultivar
Species: spicata
Spread: 15 to 18 inches
Time to Mature: 2 years from seeds
Tolerance: Poor or clay-based soils and drought
Uses: Mass plantings, centerpieces, dried arrangements
Water Needs: Low to moderate

Blazing Star Cultivation and History

Native to meadows and prairies in the eastern part of North America, blazing star is a very hardy perennial that produces grass-like, narrow leaves and taller spikes of eye-catching purple flowers. It blooms from the middle of summer to fall, and it’s a clump-forming perennial that is part of the Asteraceae family. The Liatris genus has roughly 40 species.

The plants grow from a corm, and they form big tuberous roots that make them hardy in zones three to nine. In spring, you’ll see very delicate foliage before the sturdy stalks crop up topped with feathery, striking flowers in white, pink, or vibrant purple. The longer flower heads have several mini florets that bloom from top to bottom, and they cover the whole top of the flower stalk.

This plant grows upright, and it will take up very little garden space. The flower stems rarely need staking for support unless you grow them in a very rich, moist soil. The foliage stays attractive throughout the summer months, and during the fall, the stalks and leaves will take on a very rich bronze hue with wheat-colored seed heads.

Larger clumps of blazing stars do well with division every few years to prevent dead spots or crowding. This plant is a favorite of florists, and it’s a very long-lasting cut flower that makes an attractive addition to cutting gardens, containers, flower beds, and in informal or naturalized plantings.

The flower spikes on this plant grow from one to five feet tall, and they are pollinator magnets, including butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Migrating and local birds will also visit and enjoy the seeds when they ripen in the fall. Roots of this plant have a long history of use by the Native Americans for several different ailments, including snake bite treatments, and for treatment of swelling, abdominal pain, and colic.

Popular Blazing Star Types

There are many popular types of blazing stars available on the market, depending on the color you want for the flowers. Native flowers are purple, but you can now find pink and white shades too.

  • Alba – These pure white flowers get around 18 inches tall.
  • Callilepis – If you want flowers for your cut arrangement, these are the ideal ones to have as they are a brilliant purple
  • Floristan White – This plant produces three-foot flower spikes in July, and it has a reputation for having a very long bloom period.
  • Kansas Gayfeather or Prairie Blazing Star – This plant blooms later in the season from August to September. You can get it in purple, white, or rose-purpose colors, and the spires are between two and five feet tall.
  • Kobold – You’ll get more compact, smaller flowers with deep purple coloring. It’s a nice choice to mix into perennial beds or to plant in the foreground.
  • Rough Blazing Star – This plant has purple flowers that get between 15 and 40 inches tall, depending on the climate. It produces less showy flowers, but it does well in barren, dry soil.
  • September Glory – This cultivar blooms from August to September and produces four-foot flower spikes.

2 Blazing Star Cultivars
There are many cultivars on the market that allow you to tailor your choice to your preferred color scheme, and all of them are surprisingly hardy.

Blazing Star Characteristics and Identification

It’s usually relatively easy to identify blazing stars. The tall spikes of flowers tower over the grass to make it look unique. They also have flowers that look almost fuzzy, unlike the more tubular flowers of Salvia or Penstemon.


The stalk will slowly change from a leaf-covered stalk to a purple staff of small flowers that is between 6 and 18 inches long. Small flower heads will show up to completely cover the stalk when it blooms. The flowers are evenly spaced and distributed around the length and circumference of the stalk to give it a very thick, full look.

Head Stalks

The flowerheads will have a purple, pink, or white color, and they’ll start blooming at the top of the stalk and slowly move downwards over three or four weeks. Each flowerhead is roughly ¾-inch in diameter. This type of flower is also very attractive to pollinators due to the almost stringy or hairy appearance.

After it blooms, the flower head stalks will start to dry out and seeds form. The seeds will be cylindrical and small in shape, and they have a feather tail that is very similar to a badminton birdy. You can easily save the seeds from these flower heads, but storage is special to ensure they stay viable.


When the plant starts to emerge in the spring, you’ll notice a grass-like clump of foliage first. Leaves on the blazing star start at the base as a tight clump and get smaller as they travel up the stalk. The leaves are roughly ¼ to ½-inches wide by 4 to 10 inches long, and they are alternate.


The roots on blazing stars are a bulb-like design called a corm. These are the plant’s primary root mass, and they get larger each year. There will also be fibrous, smaller roots that come from the corms. The amount of flowering the corm experiences is heavily influenced by when you initially planted them. In later years, the timing and amount of flowers each plant produces depends on the soil temperature. So, this will also influence how many stalks you have for cut flowers. The distinct lack of a taproot makes this a surprisingly nice container plant.


The stalks will be between two and six feet tall, and they start out at a light green before going to a deeper greenish-purple color. The plants won’t produce a stalk the first year when you start them from seeds, but they usually produce a single stalk during the second year. By the third year, you’ll get three to six stalks from a single plant.

Blazing Star Care

You can plant blazing stars from a potted nursery start, but it’s much cheaper to plant them from the bulb-like roots that you can purchase in bulk. Although these dried root structures get marketed as bulbs, they are corms. These dormant, swollen stem parts will send up shoots and flowers roughly three months after you plant them. As with any corms, the biggest ones will produce the most impressive display of flowers, and you should look for ones that are three inches or more in diameter. Space them roughly 12 to 15 inches apart, and plant them two to four inches into the soil.

This plant requires little care, but you may need to stake up the stems if you plant them in soil that is overly rich as this can cause the plant to grow floppy and tall. If you’re patient, starting them from seeds is possible. To care for your blazing star, you’ll:


This plant isn’t a heavy feeder, but if your garden soil is very poor, you can add a balanced flower fertilizer in the spring just as the active growing period starts. However, in most decent soil, this plant doesn’t need any fertilizer to do well.


Pick out an area in the yard that gets full sun each day. These were originally prairie plants in their native habitat, so the more sun you can give them, the better they’ll grow.


Roughly any soil, at any fertility level, will grow blazing star corms successfully, but quick drainage is essential so you don’t end up with root rot. Very rich soil may cause you to stake your plants as it encourages floppy growth. They prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. Also, heavier, clay-based soil can cause root rot, especially in winter, if your soil doesn’t drain.

Temperature and Humidity

Hardy in zones three to nine, blazing star is very tolerant to summer humidity and heat in warmer climates. It will also survive cold winters as long as the soil isn’t soaked. Wet winter soils invite root rot.


After you plant them, make a point to water them thoroughly. The corms will need no more water until they sprout. As they start the active growth period, you’ll want to give them an inch of water each week during the hottest parts of the year to prevent leaf scorch and stunted flowers. Apply water at the base of your plants or use drip irrigation to prevent issues with fungal diseases. These plants require more water in their first year before they develop their tolerance to dry soil conditions and drought.

3 Blazing Star Care
These plants are very hardy and do well with light neglect. This makes them great for beginner gardeners.

Propagating Blazing Star

As this plant matures, it’ll develop offset corms. It’s very easy to propagate blazing stars by digging up the root corms and separating them. Doing this every few years will help extend how long the clump of plants last and make them come back stronger. To propagate it, you:

By Division

  • When the leaves first emerge in the spring, dig around the clump and lift it out of the ground with a spade.
  • Gently rinse around the soil to expose the root mass.
  • Using a clean, sharp knife, cut the roots into sections while ensuring each section has roots and a growing leaf or bud.
  • Break off any baby corms.
  • Sprinkle the cut divisions with a fungicide like garden sulfur.
  • Plant your roots five inches deep in a starburst pattern, spacing them between 8 and 16 inches apart.
  • Plant the bulbils two to three inches deep and four to eight inches apart.
  • Fill in the hole with soil and water until the top six inches of soil are moist.
  • To conserve moisture and control weed growth, cover the area with a thicker two or three-inch layer of dry mulch like grass clippings or hay.

By Seed

Seeds from blazing stars are only viable for 12 months or less, and you can collect them in the fall or directly sow them into the garden right away if you live in a climate with cold winters. They need extensive exposure to cold and a moist environment to germinate during the following spring. If you don’t have time to plant them right away, you can sow flats and leave them outside over the winter to germinate.

For places with mild winters, collect the seeds during the fall and store them in a dry, cool spot. Roughly 12 weeks before you directly sow indoors, mix them with a moist vermiculite, sand, or peat and seam them in a bag. Put the bag into the refrigerator until you’re ready to plant them.

Plant your cold-treated blazing star seeds outside when the weather warms to around 65°F. Alternatively, after three months of cold exposure, pot the seeds into four inch containers and leave them to sprout. Use a potting mix with equal parts compost, moist sand, and vermiculite and lightly spread your seeds on top. Cover them with a thin layer of potting soil.

Place your pots in a bright, cool location, water them regularly, and plant them into the garden after the last frost date. Plants you start from seeds will bloom in the second year of maturity.

Potting and Repotting Blazing Star

It’s not common to grow native perennials like blazing star in containers, but it’s entirely possible. Any well-draining container that you fill with a porous potting soil will work for growing them. Planting and care are identical to how you’d maintain one planted in the ground, but you’ll need to water them more as the soil in containers will dry out much quicker than in the ground.

To ensure your plants survive the winter, move the containers to a sheltered location as the freezing weather comes around. Some gardeners have success putting the containers in a cold frame or in a cool garage, heaping mulch on them, or burying the containers in the garden for winter. However, don’t bring it inside and try to grow it as a houseplant over the winter as they need a few weeks of cold dormancy to reset themselves to bloom in the spring.

Overwintering Blazing Star

Inside the hardiness zone, you won’t need any special winter cold protection. The normal routine is to cut off the flower stalks near ground level, but you can leave the flower heads in place if you want to feed the winter birds. This plant won’t tolerate wet soil, so you want to avoid heaping a lot of mulch over the plant during the winter because this can trap moisture and encourage rot. Make sure you clean away any soggy garden debris during the spring when new growth starts.

4 Overwintering Blazing Star
You will need to expose your blazing star to colder winter conditions for it to germinate and come back in the spring.

How to Get Blazing Star to Bloom

This is a very long-blooming perennial flower that gives you a pretty display from July until late in the fall months. This is because the spikes of flowers are dense clusters of tiny flowers that open in succession, starting at the top of the spike. This flowering habit is routine for mature plants that get plenty of sun, but younger plants can withhold flowers for the first year or two until it establishes a root system. If you are patient, this plant will reward you.

If your mature plants don’t bloom, you may have an issue with soil fertility. If so, try blending a slow-release fertilizer into the soil around the plants in the spring. The plant also has to get enough sunlight.

Blazing Star Growing Tips

This is a very tough plant that thrives in a naturally harsh climate. But, in dry periods, new plantings should get watered once a week until it establishes a strong root system. As with any corms or bulbs, avoid overwatering them. After the first few months, blazing stars require very little attention to do well. They’re relatively drought-tolerant, and they’re very disease and pest-resistant.

However, the blazing star is a plant that is rich in nectar and pollen. You can plant some in open areas to help lure in beneficial pollinators like bees or hummingbirds. The ripe flower heads give birds a good food source too.

Blazing Star Pruning and Maintenance

You can clean up the stems and foliage any time after they start to die off and turn bronze, orange, or brown shades. But, they add a nice touch to your autumn or winter gardens, and you can leave them in place until spring cleanup. In early spring, you want to remove the vegetative debris and side dress any established clumps by working an organic matter into the soil like humus, mature compost, or manure.

Managing Blazing Star Pests and Diseases

Although insect problems are rare, blazing stars are a food source for larvae for flower moth species, including the bleeding flower moth and the rare glorious flower moth. Both of these moths feed exclusively on blazing stars, but infestations usually aren’t a huge problem as you can hand-pick the larvae off.

There are some fungal diseases that can present problems for this plant, including powdery mildew and leaf spot. Remove any infected foliage you see, reduce how much you water, and allow the top two inches of soil to dry. If necessary, divide and respace. Having enough space between plants will allow for enough air circulation and sunlight, and this helps reduce fungal issues.

Common Problems With Blazing Star

This is a very hardy native wildflower, and it usually thrives with neglect. When problems crop up, it’s usually due to too much care, too much watering, or too much fertilizer in the soil.

Flower Stalks Flop Over

When you grow it in poor to average soil, this is a plant that is relatively sturdy. They also grow well in gravelly, rocky soil. It’s usually not necessary to stake the plants, but very fertile, rich soil can cause the flower stalks to grow floppy and topple. In this case, you will want to stake the plants and cut back on or eliminate your feeding routine.

Plants Feel Mushy and Break Off at the Ground

This is a huge indicator that you have corm or stem rot, and it’s caused by wet soil that acts like a vehicle for fungal diseases to get into the stems and roots. You’ll have to remove these plants and reduce watering and improve the soil drainage.

Best Uses for Blazing Star in the Garden

Since this is an eye-catching, tall plant, blazing star does very well in containers, flower beds, naturalized settings, and cutting gardens. It’s a valuable addition to your perennial gardens, and they give you a reliable vertical contrast to broad-leafed or mounded plants like hostas. They’re also equally at home in naturalized areas or in a meadow.

The purple flowers this plant produces contrast nicely with any yellow or orange-flowered plants like coreopsis, black-eyed susans, marigolds, or daylilies. If you want a bold splash of color, mix them with other purples and vibrant reds like Osteospermum, Gladiolus, Verbena, and Pelargonium.

Blazing star also offers its presence as a stand-alone specimen plant, and it does very well in drifts and large stands. Since this is a native species, it’s robust enough to hold its own when you plant it in prairies or meadows with other wildflowers. The flowers are rich in pollen and nectar, and the flowers attract a host of butterflies to make them a great pick for your butterfly garden.

They make a fantastic companion plant for sedges and ornamental grasses. In more casual garden settings, they mix well with blanket flowers, butterfly weeds, and coneflowers. Also, dried blazing star plants work well in dried arrangements. To dry them, you’ll harvest the stalks when roughly half of the flowers are blooming. Hang the whole thing upside down in a dry, cool location for three to four weeks.

FAQs for Blazing Star Care

5 Blazing Star FAQs
It’s common to have questions about this plant, even though it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of care to keep them looking nice. The most common questions are below.

1. What is the best use of blazing star in landscapes?

As a North American native wildflower, this plant is at home in cottage gardens or other wildflower meadow plantings. Their low maintenance and hardiness also make them a great addition to rock gardens with penstemon, dianthus, or creeping baby’s breath.

2. How do you harvest blazing star flowers for vase display?

This is a very popular cut flower as they provide vertical interest and textural interest to casual vase arrangements. It’s best to harvest these flowers just as the top flowers are starting to open before the bottom flowers open. The stalks will continue to flower over a few weeks in a vase.

Crafters and DIY enthusiasts like dried blazing star blooms as they go nicely in garlands and wreaths. To use them, you’ll harvest the flowers at the peak blooming time, strip off the leaves and stems, and hang them upside down to dry.

3. How long does a blazing star live?

As with most plants that feature corm roots, this plant usually produces new corm structures before using its energy and nutrients from the previous one. So, individual corms aren’t long-lived, but they keep producing offshoots.

As a result, your clump may start to die off in the center as the new stalks come from the corms. So, this clump can live for years at a time, getting more sparse as the old corms die back. You can dig up the whole clump every few years and divide them before replanting them to keep a full look.

4. Is a blazing star a nice addition for wildlife gardens?

Yes, this is arguably one of the best wildflowers you can have to attract pollinators, including bees and a range of butterflies like tiger swallowtail, monarch, orange sulfur, and gray hairstreak. Hummingbirds also like to make an appearance around these plants.

Bottom Line

Blazing star is a hardy, native perennial wildflower that produces huge flower stalks that are very eye-catching. They don’t require a lot of maintenance or care to keep them looking nice, and they can grace your yard year after year with their bright purple, white, or pink blooms.

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