FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Liatris scariosa is an upright clumping perennial wildflower. Plants are up to 5’ tall and unbranched with long narrow leaves. From late summer to early fall, rosy purple spikey flowers arise. Plants are tough and drought tolerant prospering in sunny sites with average to dry soils.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Liatris scariosa occurs in the eastern United States from Maine south to Georgia and west from Wisconsin to Arkansas.
Habitats include open rocky woodlands, mesic to dry prairies, bald knobs, limestone glades, sand barrens, oak or pine savannas, edges of sandy oak woodlands, dry banks, sunny prairie remnants and right-of-ways.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Liatris scariosa is a sturdy perennial that produces an upright central stalk from a rounded woody underground corm.
Leaves are narrowly ovate or oblong with the largest basal leaves being as much as 1.5” wide and 10” long. The rich green blades become progressively smaller as the stalk rises.
The leaves are glabrous often with a fringe of hairs on the margin.
In late summer flower stalks erupt into spikey inflorescences composed of widely spaced orchid colored heads. The heads are 1” across and button shaped. Each contains 35 or more disc florets. The florets have curly exerted styles that impart a shaggy appearance. The stalks that support the heads and the bracts beneath are maroon tinted.
Blooming continues until early autumn when soft tufts of fluffy golden brown achenes appear.
Plants are 2.5-5’ tall with a 1-2’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Liatris scariosa is a tough cookie that flourishes in sunny sites with lean to moderately fertile well drained soils.
Plants tolerate drought, heat, humidity, controlled burns, moderate salinity and dry, sandy or rocky soils. This species will grow in most average well drained garden soils but will flop if soil is too rich or moist.
Plants are fairly pest resistant but may be nibbled by rabbits, deer and livestock. Plants can be short lived because the corms are a favored food of small rodents.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden, Prairie Garden or Meadow. Plants are also used as Cut Flowers, Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Liatris scariosa has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders and Roadsides.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Liatris scariosa with Andropogon gerardii, Bouteloua curtipendula, Callirhoe involucrata, Echinacea purpurea, Eryngium yuccifolium, Eupatorium hyssopifolium Schizachyrium scoparium, Solidago speciosa or Zizia aurea
Liatris aspera could be a suitable replacement due to similar flowers and habitat needs.
TRIVIA: Liatris scariosa has widely spaced and larger flowerheads than most other blazing stars.
Liatris scariosa has heads with reddish ascending stalks, rounded bracts with smooth edges and usually more than 35 disc flowers per head. Liatris aspera is a very similar species with almost sessile heads, bracts with jagged edges and fewer than 35 disc flowers per head.
This member of the Sunflower Family is known as Devil's bite, Large blazing star, Large gayfeather, Eastern Blazing Star, Blue Blazing Star, Savanna blazing star or Savanna gayfeather.
Flowers are frequented by native bees, butterflies, skippers and hummingbirds.