Plant of the Month: Buttonbush
September 17, 2020
Blazing Star is one of those flowers that's hard to miss. The plant, which is part of the daisy family, grows tall stems covered in tiny petals, usually in a beautiful, bright pink-purple color.
Blazing star is native to Florida, which means you may have spotted it growing wild by the side of the road. It thrives on very little attention, yet its striking flowers will be an eye-catching addition to any display.
Want to use this appealing, easy-to-grow plant in your own backyard? Read on to find out how!
There are so many reasons you might want blazing star in your yard in Florida!
For one, the tall stems form a great contrast with smaller shrubs. For another, the gorgeous magenta blossoms will draw the eye and provide a bold sweep of color.
But looking great is not the only reason to grow blazing star - this beautiful plant is also great for wildlife. It attracts butterflies and birds, including hummingbirds, and it helps provide valuable habitat for native bees.
Finally, blazing star is a great choice because it's relatively easy to grow. Once it's established it will look beautiful without needing a lot of attention.
The most common type of blazing star to grow in your backyard is liatris spicata or dense blazing star. Its tall spikes of purple flowers will bloom in summer and turn a gorgeous bronze color when they die out in the fall.
Liatris gracilis, or graceful blazing star, is another common variety that is easy to grow in Florida. This variety blooms purple in the fall and is especially drought-tolerant.
There are many more varieties of liatris growing across the USA. This blog post will introduce you to some of the different kinds.
If you're thinking of adding blazing star to your range of backyard plants, we have good news for you: this hardy perennial is easy to grow in Florida.
This pretty purple plant prefers full sun and soil with good drainage. It needs moist, slightly acidic soil. Because it's a wildflower, blazing star actually does well in poor soil conditions as long as the roots don't get too damp.
It's best to put in your young plants during the spring, in cool weather. This gives your liatris time to get established before summer.
You will need to loosen the soil to around 8 inches deep. If necessary, add some grit or sand to improve drainage and avoid rot. Then, make a hole twice as wide as the root ball and slightly deeper.
Once you have put the plant into the hole you can fill it in and firm up the soil around it.
If the weather is dry, you will need to water weekly until the root system is established. But be careful to avoid over-watering: as we've already mentioned, blazing star can be prone to rot if the roots are too damp.
After a few months, your liatris should be well established. From this point on it won't need much attention as they are fairly tolerant of drought and resistant to most pests and diseases.
When the stems die they will turn a bronze color. You can start clean-up straight away, but many people like to leave the beautiful brown-orange stems through the fall as they provide a seasonal touch. It's fine to leave them until spring if you like the look.
Leaving the flower heads in place will also help goldfinches and migrating songbirds looking for food during the winter.
Liatris does not need any particular protection from the cold in Florida as it's a hardy plant. You will still need to be careful to avoid damp soil, so it may be best not to heap mulch over them.
When spring comes, make sure to remove any debris that remains to promote the dry, well-drained conditions needed by blazing star.
Because blazing star is a hardy native wildflower you're unlikely to run into many problems with it.
In fact, any issues are likely to arise from too much care. Over-fertile soil can cause the growth to be lush and floppy, resulting in spikes that fall or lean to the side and need to be propped up.
If this happens, you can stake the spikes. In this case you can also reduce or eliminate any feeding as the liatris will thrive in a less fertile soil.
Similarly, over-watering can lead to root rot. If you notice that plants are breaking off low down, or turning mushy, it's likely that wet soil has brought a fungal disease to the roots or stems of the plant. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do at this stage and any affected plants will need to be removed.
Make sure to improve soil drainage or reduce watering for future plants. You can also help by making sure to space plants apart from each other to allow for air circulation.
Blazing star grows from a corm structure. The individual corms don't live long but will reproduce on their own. This means that a clump of liatris can live for a very long time. You may see that the center of the clump begins to die off while new growth occurs around the outside.
If this is happening, you can dig up the whole clump every few years then divide and replant the corms.
As a hardy perennial, blazing star will do well in a rock garden. The stems are also valued as cut flowers.
You can mix blazing stars with other purple and red plants such as gladiolus or osteospermum to provide a rich area of color. Or you can use your liatris to provide contrast with orange or yellow plants - perhaps rudbeckia or marigolds.
The tall stems will look great as a backdrop behind shorter plants such as hosta or shasta daisy.
As a beautiful native wildflower that provides food and habitat for birds and pollinators, blazing star is a great choice for any Floridian backyard. Its stems of feathery flowers make a statement piece in your backyard and, once established, require very little attention as long as the soil is well-drained. Blazing star is a beautiful plant for everyone to enjoy!
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