The Plant Native

Blazing Star

Highlights

Its name says it all. Blazing Stars send up a tall stalk in the spring and then cover it with tiny purple flowers throughout the summer. It looks like a living firework. Leave them alone in the fall and winter when their stalks are covered in seeds and they will turn into bird feeders. Since they are perennials, you plant them once and enjoy them for years. Blazing Stars are very easy to grow, prefer sunny spots, and are drought-tolerant.

Full sun
8″ to 5′ tall, depending on species
Longlasting summer flowers
Liatris
Genus

Blazing Stars: a gorgeous pollinator buffet

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant Blazing Star

Table of Contents

What are benefits of planting Blazing Star?

Native plants—like Blazing Star—are excellent for our gardens for three reasons:

  1. Native plants are the food and habitat that birds, butterflies, and pollinators depend on to survive
  2. Native plants let you be a lazy gardener! (All they need is rain once they are established), and…
  3. Native plants are beautiful (wander through our native plant library for proof!)

Blazing Stars are tall native flowers

Blazing Stars (Liatris) are not shy native plants. The flower stalks can grow up to 3-5 feet high when thriving. You have to appreciate its commitment to being pollinated! Each plant puts out a beautiful buffet line for the pollinators. Their long flower-filled stem gives multiple butterflies a place to snack alongside each other. 

Blazing Stars flower from the top-down

Unlike hundreds of other flowering plants, Blazing Stars flowers from the top to the bottom. The plant will send up a tall stalk first, then buds will form along 3/4 of the stalk, and then slowly the flowers will bloom from the top, down. It’s a beautiful show that lasts for weeks throughout the summer.

Blazing Stars look best when they are planted in groups of 5 plants or more. It makes everyone look twice when they see such an ornate, showy display. It also helps pollinators and birds find food easily.

Blazing stars look great planted in groups of five or more, and look great alongside other sunny native flowers like Bee Balm and Coneflower

How to grow Blazing Star

Blazing Star is very easy to grow and exceptionally easy to keep alive year-after-year. Blazing stars are:

  • Low maintenance: no fertilizer or special needs are required for blazing stars to thrive
  • Drought-tolerant: blazing stars can withstand dry, hot periods
  • Longtime bloomers: their flowers are often open from June to August!
  • Perennials: they will come back year after year. Once you plant them and they are happily established, you can enjoy them in your yard for years to come.

No pesticides or herbicides

Avoid using pesticides or herbicides near blazing star plants, as they can harm the butterflies and pollinators that visit the plant.

Types of native Blazing Star

There are a few true native varieties of Blazing Star (here’s a quick overview of what makes a plant native) and many cultivars. The Plant Native always encourages planting natives over cultivars (or nativars). Native plants are what the bugs, butterflies, and creatures know, and cultivars can sometimes confuse.

Here are some native varieties of Blazing Star perfect for gardens:

Cylindrical Blazing Star

Liatris cylindracea

Cylindrical Blazing Stars are shorter native options (only 8-24 inches!) Their button-like flowers are paired with an elegant stalk feathered in delicate leaves. Cylindrical Blazing Stars are native to the Midwestern US.

Dense Blazing Stars

Liatris spicata

Dense Blazing Stars look like garden light sabers. Their stalks are covered in dense flowers that bloom from the top down. They can be tall: 2-5 feet! Dense Blazing Stars are native to the entire eastern half of the country.

Rough Blazing Star

Liatris aspera

Rough Blazing Stars arrange their blooms in pom-pom-like blossoms. Like all Blazing Stars, they are very drought tolerant. They can also be tall: 2-5 feet! Rough Blazing Stars are native to the Midwestern US.

Added bonus: Blazing Star is deer-proof

Deer do NOT eat Blazing Stars! If you’re worried about deer nibbling your garden, these are perfect native plants. 

A shortened cultivar Dense Blazing Star cultivar flowering from the top, down.

Grow Blazing Star from seeds

Growing Blazing Star from seeds is cheaper but takes some patience: plants will normally not flower until the second or third year. (Plants started by seed in the spring will not flower until the following summer or second-following summer.)

Blazing Stars take a while to grow from seed because the plant starts by putting its energy into developing a deep root called a corm. This long root takes the first year to grow, and it is also what helps Blazing Stars be very drought tolerant. The long root can reach down deep to find water, which it then stores in the root. Think of it like a camel hump that’s a root!

Here are some online nurseries that sell Blazing Star seeds:

Grow Blazing Star from plants

Blazing Star plants will normally flower the first year they are planted and will return in the following years with stronger plants and bigger blooms. There are three reliable ways to find Blazing Star plants for your yard:

1

Buy from a local plant nursery

Your local nursery will have Blazing Star plants to buy, especially at the end of spring / early summer. Whenever possible, buy native plants from local nurseries. To date, Home Depot and Lowes only carry this plant as bulbs in the spring.

2

Find a local plant swap

Blazing Stars are sometimes dug up and given away (remember to dig deep to get the whole corm!) Search local gardening groups on Facebook to find local gardeners who often give away plants during the spring and fall.

3

Visit local plant sales in the spring

Almost all local plant organizations and gardens host plant sales in the spring. These plant sales often include plants that are not available at conventional nurseries. Check your local garden websites for dates.

Coneflowers + Blazing Stars + Butterfly Weed = butterfly garden party

What to plant with Blazing Star

Don’t forget: most Blazing Stars are tall. Put medium-height and short-height plants in front of tall species of Blazing Stars, otherwise, they will block shorter plants.

A great way to plan a garden is to ensure something is always flowering, from spring to fall. Here are some gorgeous, seasonal Blazing Stars pairings:

Native flowers for the spring

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Creeping Phlox

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False Blue Indigo

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Golden Alexander

other native flowers for the summer

Native flowers for the fall

Growing Blazing Star in your garden is a sure way to add a pop of color and support local butterflies and songbirds. With its striking flowers and pollinator-attracting qualities, this native plant is a great addition to any garden. Whether you’re looking to plant in a small backyard or a large prairie, Blazing Star is a hardy and reliable choice that will provide benefits for years to come.

UPDATED —
02/19/2024
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