FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Liatris aspera is a showy drought tolerant perennial wildflower. Plants are up to 5’ tall and unbranched with narrow somewhat grass-like leaves. In late summer spectacular rosy purple flower spikes are frequented by Monarchs, Painted Ladies and other supermodel butterflies. Plants are tough and drought tolerant prospering in sunny sites with lean dry soils.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Liatris aspera occurs in eastern North America from Ontario south to Florida and west from North Dakota to Texas. The species is absent to parts of the northeastern United States.
Habitats include open sandy or rocky woodlands, mesic to dry prairies, dry Blackland prairies, bald knobs, limestone glades, barrens, dry savannas, edges of sandy oak woodlands, dry banks, sunny prairie remnants and right-of-ways.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Liatris aspera is a sturdy perennial that produces an upright central stalk from a rounded woody underground corm.
Leaves are long and narrow with the largest basal leaves being as much as 1” wide and 12” long. The blades are pubescent or glabrous becoming progressively smaller as the stalk rises. They are bluish or grayish green and are packed close together on the stem.
In late summer flower stalks erupt into spikey inflorescences composed of many orchid colored florets. The florets are arranged into 1” button-like heads. The heads contain many disc florets with curly exerted styles that give a bottlebrush effect.
Blooming begins at the top of the flower stalk and progresses downward. The flower display continues from late summer until autumn for 3-4 weeks.
After flowering, soft tufts of fluffy golden brown achenes drift on the wind to their new homes.
Plants are 2-5’ tall with a 1-2’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Liatris aspera is a tough cookie that flourishes in xeric-types sites with full sun and dry soils.
Plants tolerate drought and loamy, clay, sandy or rocky soils. Acidic pH is preferred. This species will grow in most average well drained garden soils but will flop if soil is too rich or moist.
Plants are prized for their ability to attract beneficial bees, skippers, butterflies and hummingbirds. Unfortunately rabbits, deer and livestock find the foliage and stems tasty. Plants can be short lives because the corms are a favored food of small rodents.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden, dry Prairie or Meadow. Plants are also used as Cut Flowers, Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Liatris aspera 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 aspera with Andropogon gerardii, Antennaria neglecta, Asclepias syriaca, Aster oblongifolius, Coreopsis tripteris, Chyrsopsis mariana, Echinacea tennesseensis 'Rocky Top' or Eryngium yuccifolium.
Liatris squarrosa could be a more compact replacement due to similar flowers and habitat needs.
TRIVIA: Liatris aspera is among the latest blooming of the blazing stars. It can be distinguished from its relatives due to its taller stature, preference for drier locations, larger clusters of disc flowers and the rounded flaring bracts of the flower heads.
This member of the Sunflower Family is known as Rough Blazing Star, Prairie Blazing Star, Button Blazing Star and Tall Gayfeather.