Liatris 

(lii-aa' triss, lii' a-triss)

Common name: Blazing Star, Gayfeather

Family: Asteraceae, Aster

Height x width: 18-36" x 12-24"

Growth rate, habit: moderate; upright spikes from basal growth

Foliage: alternate, lower leaves broad lanceolate to 1" across and 5" long, upper leaves smaller

Flowers: 25-50 flower heads of disc flowers only in tight spike or raceme, each flower up to 1" across, inflorescence opening from the top downwards (basipetally) unlike most spike flowers, mid to late summer; rose, lavender or white

Hardiness: zones 3-9

Soil: well-drained except spicata which prefers moist to damp

Light: sun, tolerates light shade in south

Pests and problems: root and crown rot especially if too wet for most species, leaf spots, rusts, root-knot nematode in South, mites

Landscape habit, uses: singly or scattered through border for vertical effect, cut flower, stream or water side for spicata

Other interest: native to North America

Other culture: plants arise from corms, tubers or flattened rootstocks which are desirable to rodents; remove spent flowers at tip of the spike for prolonged bloom; when cutting don't remove too much foliage to ensure continued tuber development

Propagation: division in spring (leaving at least one "eye" per root piece, dust cut ends with fungicide to prevent rot), seed (9,500 seeds per ounce)

Species:

aspera (ass' pear-ah)-- Rough Gayfeather, zones 3-9, 3-4', rough hairy throughout, well-spaced rounded lavender flowers in 8" spike, later than most species, liked by birds, native to central U.S. north to south

calilepis:spicata

cylindracea (si-lin-draa' cee-ah)-- zones 4-9, native to central U.S., 18-24", purple to white loose inflorescence in late summer

ligulistylis (li-gue-li-stiil' is)-- zones 3-9, native to west central U.S. and Canadian plains, 18-24", purple flowers in loose spike in late summer to fall

microcephala (mii-cro-ce' fah-lah)-- zones 6-9, native to So. Appalachian mountains, 18-24", multi-stemmed, narrow and grass-like leaves, flowers rose-purple

punctata (punk-tah' tah)--Snakeroot, zones 3-9, native to eastern U.S. to New Mexico, 24-30", purple flowers in dense spike 12" long in late summer

pycnostachya (pic-no-staa' cee-yah)--Kansas Gayfeather, zones 3-9, native to central U.S. north to south, 3-5', mauve flowers in summer with leafy bracts under in 12" long spike, requires staking and moist but well-drained soil

scariosa (scare-ee-o' sah)--Tall Gayfeather, zones 3-9, native to S.E. U.S., 24-30" or taller for some cultivars, usually densely pubescent leaves and to 2" wide, white to purple flowers in mid-summer

spicata (spi-caa' tah)--Spike Gayfeather, Button Snakewort, usual species of commerce, zones 3-9, 3-4', native to eastern U.S., mauve flowers in summer in dense spike 18-24" long
 
 

Cultivars:
 
Cultivars species flowers other
'Alba' pycnostachya creamy white  
'Alba' spicata white  
'Floristan Violet' spicata dark purple  
'Floristan White' spicata white  
'Gnome':'Kobold'      
'Goblin':'Kobold'      
'Kobold' spicata lilac-mauve early, multiple spikes
'Picador' spicata purple to white variable from seed
'September Glory' scariosa purple most open at same time
'Silvertips' spicata lavender, silver tint  
'White Spire' scariosa white most open at same time


©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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