Blazing Stars Attract Pollinators and Birds to Your Garden

Liatris spicata blooms from the top.
Liatris spicata blooms from the top down. Pollinating wasp

The Blazing Stars are about to bloom. The hundred of small flowers blooming up and down the tall spikes are very popular with the bees. Butterflies like the nectar, too. Birds, especially my neighborhood Goldfinches, love the seeds.

The spikes are covered with flowers from about six inches above the rosette of basal leaves to up to 48 inches high. The leaves at the base of the plant are bright green and narrow. The feathery flower petals look like the feathery hats the comedian Phyllis Diller would wear. See the Phyllis Diller’s feather hat on – not an affiliate link. 

Each of those little flowers has a nectar sack at the base. Bees, flies and other pollinators treat Liatris like a buffet.


Blazing Star and Purple Coneflower

Liatris Natural Range and Types

They are one of my fifty favorite native plants. The liatris are only found in North America. There are over 40 species that can be found from the Rocky Mountains east to the eastern seaboard. They are Philly natives.

With over 40 species native to Turtle Island (North America), there is a Liatris species for more gardens east of the Rockies.

All the Liatris species will have spikes lined with small nectar filled flowers.  Some are shorter than the tallest varieties. Species range from 8 inches to six feet tall.

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

Other Liatris Species

Gayfeather (Liatris aspera) – good for dry soils

Dotted Blazing Star (Liatris punctata) – good for dry soils

Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pyenostachya) – good for dry soils

Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa)


Liatris and Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' in bloom in my garden.
Liatris and Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’ in bloom in my garden.

Garden Conditions for Blazing Star

Liatris spicata, which grows in my garden, is a wetland plant, but tolerates drought well. The Liatris family has species for dry and/or wet conditions.

How Long Do Blazing Stars Live and Grow?

Blazing Stars are a long-lived plant and have been growing in my garden for at least ten years. They have a clumping growth habit and stay where you put them. The clump of the plants growing larger each year.


Blazing Star rises from spiky basal leaves.
Blazing Star rises from spiky basal leaves.

How to Take Care of Blazing Stars

I’ll have to divide the dormant clumps in the spring to increase the number of blooming plants next summer. It takes the plant about two growing seasons to develop into big showy plants. I have a large, old clump growing in my big flower bed. Last year I divided the plants. Now I have a range of big, old plants and small, young ones.

I haven’t had to stake my older, taller stalks, so far. I hope I don’t.


Cabbage White butterfly pollinating Blazing Star
Cabbage White butterfly pollinating Blazing Star

Do I Deadhead?

My go-to source for maintaining my perennials is Tracy DiSabato-Augt’s classic, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden. (Amazon Affiliate Link)

She advises dead-heading the flower spikes from the basal leaves, basically removing the spent flower stalk. Her experience has been that the Liatris will often re-bloom in August and September.

Deadheading the flower stalk in the middle of the stalk will produce several smaller spikes.

Fly pollinating Blazing Star
Fly pollinating Blazing Star

Blazing Star Facts

Scientific name: Liatris spicata

Common Name: Blazing Star or Gayfeather

Family: Asteraceae (Aster Family)

Zones: 3 to 9

Soil: Moist to wet, will tolerate dry soils

Light: sun to partial sun

Height: 24 to 48” tall

Natural range: New York to west to Michigan and southern Wisconsin; south to Florida and Louisiana; occasionally west to Wyoming and Mexico. Native in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


More Posts on Summer Blooming Native Plants

Plants for a Sunny And Dry Garden 

Summer into Fall Blooming Plants

Summer Blooming Native Plants

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)


Last Week’s Post – July 2021 Nature Almanac

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