Tonight we have another butterfly and bee magnet currently blooming out in various spots in the garden, another of our candidates for weed status we're very happy to have spreading its beauty to more and more areas. Liatris spicata, commonly known as 'Gay Feather,' 'Blazing Star,' (and for some odd reason 'Button Snakeroot') has an incredible hardiness range from Zones 3 all the way to 10, thus can be grown in most parts of the country.
In fact it has become near native around these parts ... I thought that it was an Iowa native, but a little bit of research told me that though it thrives in the midwest, it's actually native to the eastern part of the country. No matter, because it has adapted perfectly to our summers ... once established, it's almost impervious to the heat and humidity of July (its prime bloom period) and if you don't deadhead, it self-sows with a mighty vengeance! This is another flower that grows well from a fall sowing ... if you just let the seeds dry on the stalks, collect them and throw them around where you want them to grow, they'll be up the following spring in abundance. A note of caution, however ... they look a lot like grass when they're first coming up, so if you know you've planted Liatris in an area, just let any grassy looking things go until you can be sure. You can also purchase tubers to plant (in fact our first planting was only about 10 tubers which have since multiplied profusely), but either way, don't expect any blooms till the second year, as they spend most of their energy the first year establishing the tubers. But from the second year out, it's all, as they say, gravy and you can count on many years of seeing these positively gay feathers brightening up your garden! Oh, and the bees and butterflies will thank you as well! (I've been working on getting some shots of the bees at work but haven't gotten just the right shot yet, so you'll probably be seeing these again sometime soon....)
So, if you're going for the native look with Coneflowers, grasses, Gaillardia or other prairie type flowers, you can't go wrong planting a few Liatris among them and give them time ... and within a few years, you'll have an abundance of these lavender 'clubs' gracing the garden and attracting droves of butterflies and bees to them, who are more than happy to help increase your inventory even more in successive years!
Photos taken by IVG on July 7 and 10, 2007.