If you want to attract both butterflies and bees to your garden this year, try growing liatris. This perennial corm flowers in mid summer with a blast of flowers that are a magnet for them.
I have 10 garden beds around my home and I’m always interested in growing perennials of all types since they come back for me each year. When I first started growing perennial bulbs, I purchase some liatris corms.
I did not know much about them but I love spiky flowers and though they would look nice in my front cottage garden bed.
Liatris is often called a bulb but is actually a corm. See my article to help understand the differences between bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers.
I now have this plant growing in several of my garden beds and the plants gets bigger and bigger each year.
Easy To Grow Liatris – Blazing Star
The plant has not disappointed me. The first year, I planted it, I got a few flowers but each year since, they have multiplied and are just lovely. Some clumps have dozens of large flower stalks and the flowers are very long lasting.
Liatris could not be easier to grow. I planted mine, amended the soil with compost and watered evenly the first year to get it established. On subsequent years, I pretty much neglected it, other than adding a bit more compost and dead heading the spent flower spikes.
The bees just LOVE these flower spikes. Liatris is commonly known as a Blazing Star. One can easily see why from the flowers. It is also called a gayfeather.
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Liatris is a great plant for beginning gardeners. As long as you keep on top of the watering when the plant is getting established, it is then very easy to care for.
Cold Hardiness Zones
This Perennial corm in hardy in zone 3-9 so it is able to grow in most areas of the USA.
When to plant Liatris
The corms are normally planted in the spring, but can also be planted in fall in some areas. They will often bloom the same year that they are planted.Flowers will bloom about 70-90 days after planting.
The size depends on the variety and age of it, but my plant started out about 1 foot and now the clumps are about 4 feet wide.
The flower stalks can grow up to 6 feet tall. Mine grew to about 30 inches the first year and my established plants now have stalks about 4 feet tall. Be sure to keep the size of the plant in mind when planting liatris.
Liatris loves full sun. Most of mine get 6-8 hours a day or even more. This perennial is a tough summer bloomer that does not mind the heat and even does well with a lack of water. It’s an easy to grow plant here in the heat and humidity of North Carolina.
The flowers of blazing star liatris start blooming in mid summer and continue right through the fall for a long lasting show of colors. Even the spent flower spikes have an interesting.
The liatris flower spikes have a mass of tiny buds that open gradually from the top down. It is very impressive and one can see where the common name “gay feather” comes from!
The plant is most often seen with purple flowers but there are also white and pink varieties.
Liatris are grown from corms – swollen dormant parts of the stem. They send up long shoots first which have a flower spike which just seems to keep growing and growing. Choose large corms and you will get better and bigger flowers.
The plant will grown in pretty much any soil type, but mine have done well in well draining soil amended with organic matter. The don’t like soggy soil where the feet are wet. This can cause the corms to rot.
A slightly acid soil is preferred. Adding used coffee grounds around the plant can add acidity to the soil.
Thankfully, liatris are quite drought tolerant. Water evenly the year you plant them and then forget them! The only think they don’t seem to like is TOO much watering. Liatris don’t like wet feet.
Split the corms of the plants in the fall. Dig them up after your first freeze and pick off any small corms that are clinging to the mother corm. Store the divided corms in a cool area and then replant the following spring.
The plants can be divided in early spring but they will have a set back and will require more water if you do it then. (don’t as me how I know this!)
Space corms 4-6″ apart and the clumps 14-16″ apart -or even more. They will eventually get to be quite large clumps.
Dig a hole about 5-6 inches deep and as wide as the corm. Plant and cover with soil.
Mine grew to this size the first year of planting!
Problems and pests
Liatris are relatively resistant to pests and disease. My main problem with them has been voles. The corms are a favored food of both meadow voles or prairie voles.
I had liatris and other bulbs planted in my front garden bed for years and all of a sudden we had a problem with voles in the winter. This past spring, every corm was gone. No liatris, no tulips, no gladioli.
The only bulbs that were left were my daffodils. Fortunately, they have not (yet) discovered my back garden beds.
Follow the few tips above, and your liatris will give you years of pleasure. They can be grown with many planting companions, and liatris is always a standout—truly a blazing star in any mid-summer garden.
To remind you of my growing tips, just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest.
Have you grown liatris? What do you think of it?
Admin note: This post first appeared on my blog in July of 2013. I have updated the post with additional information and new photos.