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Maryland, DC, and Virginia Native Plants: Liatris

Looking for Liatris.

Native liatris in a swale with monarch
Liatris Growing in a Road Side Swale in Maryland in July

Liatris is a star in the Chesapeake garden just when you need it the most -- the hotter days of late July and August when lesser plants can wilt in the midday heat. The really good news is there is a liatris for most situations other than full shade.

This spectacular perennial is easy to grow, reaches two to four feet high, packs a punch of color in the height of summer heat, feeds pollinators through summer and birds through fall and winter, is a great cut flower, and makes a striking winter statement. It works well planted in a group or as a stand alone accent. Liatris is a great native substitute for popular purple ornamentals such as gladiolus, monkshood, salvia, speedwell and veronica. If you have sun or part shade, you can likely find a liatris to love.

The following information about the best liatris for your growing conditions is gathered from Mt. Cuba Center, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Using the latin names with this plant makes it more likely we will each get the specific liatris we are looking for. That said, if this level of detail makes your head spin, try spike gayfeather (Liatris spicata), commonly available and very versatile!

Full Sun, Dry Soil Conditions

Blazing Star, Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)

Grass-Leaf Blazing Star (Liatris pilosa Var. Pilosa)

Scaly Blazing Star (Liatris squarossa)

Small-Headed Gayfeather (Liatris microcephala)

Full Sun, Average Moisture Conditions

Grass-Leaf Blazing Star (Liatris pilosa Var. Pilosa)

Kobold Spike Gayfeather (Liatris spicata "Kobold')

Small-Headed Gayfeather (Liatris microcephala)

Spike Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

Savanna Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa)

Full Sun, Moist Soil Conditions

Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata Var. Resinosa)

Spike Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

Partial Shade, Average Moisture Conditions

Grass-Leaf Blazing Star (Liatris pilosa Var. Pilosa)

Spike Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

Partial Shade, Moist Soil Conditions

Dense Blazing Star (Liatris Spicata Var. Resinosa)

A couple of things to note. Most sources say liatris does not withstand water logged soils over winter, as the plant will rot. If your plant is flopping during the growing season, it may have soil conditions that are too rich. Last, this is not a plant for the "chelsea chop" even though it blooms in late summer and into fall.

Looking for liatris? Here are a few native plant nurseries to start with. Garden Centers may also have liatris. Plants purchased as quarts or larger now are likely to already be in bloom and will not reach their full potential this season so more cost effective plugs may be a good way to go. As always, best to call ahead if you are looking for a particular plant.

Chesapeake Natives (size unknown: spicata)

Direct Native Plants (quarts by mail shipped beginning September 13: spicata)

Earth Sangha (quarts: pilosa, spicata, squarossa)

Nature by Design (quarts: spicata)

The Pollen Nation (plugs by mail: scariosa, spicata 'kobold,' microcephala, spicata)

Izel Native Plants (plugs by mail: spicata)

Kollar Nursery (quarts: spicata)

Watermark Woods (quarts: aspera, microcephala, scariosa, spicata, squarrosa)

Too much information about one plant? I hear you. It's easy to grow. Longwood Gardens explains in this very short video. I am sure Longwood will leave you longing for liatris!


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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