When do Blazing Star Flowers Bloom?
Blazing star (Liatris spp.) flowers are spectacular additions to a perennial wildflower garden. Part of the fun of growing blazing stars is waiting for those flowers to emerge and brighten the garden, attracting many pollinators. Gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen will discuss all things blazing star, so you will know a little about what to expect while waiting for your Liatris to bloom.
The blazing star (Liatris spp.) is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae). There are at least 30 species of Liatris that are native to North America. Liatris spicata is the most well-known. It is easily cultivated, widespread, and native throughout eastern North America. But when do blazing star flowers bloom in a garden landscape?
Depending on the plant’s age, location, and variety, this summer flower adds gorgeous color to the landscape. The blossoms are typically shades of light pinkish purple, plus a few white varieties. They bloom along tall flowering stalks and attract pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and even hummingbirds. Each blossom looks like a fluffy mass of thin petals densely packed along the spike. A mature plant in full bloom is very showy and a welcome addition to a sunny landscape.
Fortunately, these plants are easy to grow and can be started from seed or by dividing their bulb-like corms. They thrive in full sun with low to medium-moisture, well-drained soil. The especially nice thing about growing Liatris is that they are low maintenance, don’t require much fuss, and don’t need any additional fertilizer.
Keep reading to learn more about the beautiful blazing star and when you can expect these wonderful plants to grace your yard with their flowers.
The Short Answer
If you start blazing stars from seed in the spring, they will begin blooming the following summer or perhaps the summer after. If you plant mature corms in the fall or early spring, they will probably start blooming during their first growing season.
Depending on where you live and your local climate, Blazing Star flowers will start blooming anywhere from May until August. Flowering lasts between 4 and 6 weeks. Older, more mature plants produce larger and more abundant flowers than younger, smaller plants.
The Long Answer
Blazing star generally blooms reasonably early in the growing season. The exact timing will depend on:
- Where you live
- Your local climate
- The species and variety
For example, in a moderately warm climate, your plant may reach peak bloom in early to mid-June. It may not reach peak bloom in cooler climates until sometime in August.
With so many beautiful flowers to grow for gardeners, what makes this plant special and worth growing? First, they are beautiful, with super showy flowers. Second, they are low-maintenance. You won’t need to do much to keep these native wildflowers blooming year after year. And third, they are a great choice for pollinators. Liatris is a great option if you want to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Seeds vs. Corms
So now that you’re convinced to add a Liatris to your flower garden, what can you expect from this plant for the first few years? Plants will be much slower to establish if you start them from seed.
If you want speedy results, try growing your plants from mature corms. These are potato-like tuberous parts that multiply each year and will start new plants. If you divide mature plant clusters, you will divide the corms.
Starting With Seeds
Here is what to expect if you start these flowers from seed. Patience is required because blooming can take 2-3 years.
Cold stratify (put them in the refrigerator or freezer) your seeds for about 2 months before starting them. Sow your seeds in the early spring. Keep them warm and moist until they sprout. Don’t let the seedlings dry out. If you started the seeds indoors in a pot, you should be able to transplant them outside in the autumn.
Young plants will emerge in the spring. They will grow taller and leafier. They will probably stay fairly small this year, but some vigorously growing stalks may produce a few smaller blooms this year. It’s also possible they may not be ready to bloom yet. If this seems to be the case, don’t worry, they will bloom next year.
Plants will be larger and it is likely that you see more stems than last year. If they didn’t bloom in their second year, they should definitely start blooming in the third year. If they don’t bloom, verify that they are growing in full sun. Plants grown in shade may produce foliage but are generally reluctant to flower.
Starting with Corms
For impatient gardeners, corms are a better option. Here is a typical timeline for plants started from corms:
You can buy mature corms from a reputable grower or ask a Liatris-growing friend if they’re willing to share. Do not disturb or dig plants from the wild. Plant the corms in early spring or late fall. Spring-planted corms will probably grow and bloom this first summer.
There’s a good chance your plants will emerge in the spring looking great. Regardless of if you planted them in the spring or fall of the first year, they should grow and flower during this second year.
Things should be looking good this year, with large healthy plants and multiple blossoming flower stalks.
Time of Year
Liatris is a plant that produces vigorous leafy green growth each spring as the weather starts to warm and transitions immediately into its flowering phase.
So depending on whether you live in a warm or cool climate, your plant may flower anywhere between May (for warmer climates) to August (for cooler climates). Different varieties of Liatris will also have slightly different blooming times.
There are several different species of Liatris and a few cultivars as well. Each species will have slightly different looks, colors, and sizes, but they are all easily recognized as varieties of blazing star plants. Let’s look at a few of the more common species and cultivars.
Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
This species is native to the eastern United States and Canada. It grows 2 to 4 feet tall and has dense spikes of fluffy pale purple flowers.
This species is probably the most familiar of all the varieties of Liatris. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds love this plant, so consider adding it to a wildlife-friendly garden or a pollinator garden.
Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)
The rough blazing star is native to central and eastern North America. It generally grows 3 to 4 feet tall and has extended flower spikes. Each plant typically produces 1 or 2 prominent flower stalks, each lined with well-spaced pale purple flowers. This variety is perfect for a butterfly garden.
Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)
Liatris pycnostachya is native to the central and southeastern United States. This plant grows up to 5 feet tall. Mature leafy stems are topped by long, intensely-packed flowers resembling giant, pale purple bottlebrushes.
The fluffy brown seedheads are long-standing into fall and attract seed-eating birds, especially goldfinches.
Large Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa)
The large species grows up to 3 feet tall and is native to some of the central and eastern United States.
The individual flowers are large and not as densely packed as some of the other species of Liatris. The flowers are pale pinkish-purple, very showy, and favored by many pollinators.
Liatris ‘Kobold Original’
The ‘Kobold Original’ is a cultivar that has its gardening appeal, especially for those with smaller spaces. ‘Kobold Original’ has very densely packed spikes of pale pinkish-purple flowers. These plants are quite compact, generally staying around 18 inches tall.
Liatris ‘Floristan White’
‘Floristan White’ is another Liatris cultivar with a unique garden appeal. These plants have tall, densely blooming flower spikes, but the flowers are pure white! ‘Floristan White’ grows between 3 and 4 feet tall and can develop dense flowering clusters along multiple stems.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do the Flowers Last?
Liatris flowers are fairly long-lasting because the flowers open along the spikes, from the top down, rather than blooming all at once. Plants may bloom for 4 to 6 weeks in total. Blazing star flowers make spectacular cut flowers, but you also might want to just leave them on your plants because they will attract many butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Do I Need to Deadhead the Spent Flowers?
No, you do not need to deadhead spent Liatris flowers. You can actually leave the spent flowerheads on your plants as long as you like looking at them. These seedheads are ornamental and long-lasting. They are also full of seeds which will attract foraging seed-eating birds, especially goldfinches, who will perch on the stalks and pick out the seeds.
Do I Have to Divide Liatris Plants?
No, you do not have to divide your Liatris plants. Each year, they will spread and clusters will become larger. You can divide them if you want, to propagate new clusters, give them to your friends, or thin dense patches. But otherwise, there is no need to divide clusters if you don’t want to. If you do divide your plants, separate some of the corms and replant them 6 to 12 inches apart to start new clusters.
If you have the space for a beautiful, native, perennial wildflower, consider adding a Liatris variety to your landscape. These long-lasting flowers are showy pollinator magnets that will grace your garden with a burst of color year after year.
Be sure to give them a location with full sun, regular moisture, and well-drained soil. Once your plants are established in your landscape, they are very low-maintenance. Your primary task will be to enjoy their annual blooms early each blooming season!