Rough Blazing Star
Description & Overview
As a Wisconsin native perennial that is urban-approved, helps pollinators, tolerates drought, and handles poor soils, Rough Blazing Star has plenty to boast about. The showy, button-like purple flowers appear mid-summer through fall, opening from the top of the stalk to the bottom. These showy flowers, as well as this species’ preference for drier locations, are what differentiates Rough Blazing Star from other Liatris spp.
You may also know this plant as Gayfeather or Rough Gayfeather.
Rough Blazing Star is found throughout most of Wisconsin in dry prairies, oak savannas, meadows, open woods, sandy prairies, and roadsides. It thrives in well-drained, dry, and acidic soil in full sun to part shade, and while they can tolerate clay soil, they do not like standing water or “wet feet.” Reaching upwards of five feet tall, Rough Blazing Star would benefit from being planted amongst other tall plants to prevent flopping.
Liatris, in general, are like candy to pollinators, but because this type of Blazing Star blooms a little later than others, it provides more nectar opportunities for migrating Monarchs and is especially valuable. Rough Blazing Star would be an excellent addition to a prairie or pollinator garden, or within restoration plantings as they are low maintenance, wildly popular amongst pollinators, and definitely showy.
Rough Blazing Star makes excellent cut flowers for use in fresh or dried arrangements as their height, strength, and long-lasting blooms are outstanding.
Rough Blazing Star is pollinated primarily by long-tongued bees that can reach the nectar at the bottom of the tubular flowers. Bumblebees, carpenter bees, miner bees, Green Metallic bees, and leaf-cutting bees will enjoy the nectar or foliage.
In addition to hummingbirds, nectar is relished by many butterflies including Monarchs, Gray Hairstreaks, Aphrodite Fritillary, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, Swallowtails, Blazing Star Borer Moths, Sulphurs, Wood Nymphs, and Skippers (Ottoe, Common Branded, Silver-spotted, and Leonard’s).
Mammalian herbivores including rabbits, deer, groundhogs, and livestock will dine on the leaves, corms (roots), and stems.
Birds, such as finches, will feast upon the seeds, so be sure to leave spent blooms until spring!
Rough Blazing Star is easy-to-grow, requiring little maintenance. You may want to divide plants every four years or so to increase airflow between the stems and keep them happy and healthy.
They appreciate soil on the drier side and do not do well in standing water. Be sure not to overwater. If you are looking for a Liatris that can tolerate wetter conditions, consider Prairie Blazing Star.
Deadheading after bloom isn’t needed as cutting won’t promote additional flowering. If flowers are left on the plant, the seeds can be a source of food for wild birds. If a tidier look is desired, cut the bloom spikes off just below the bottom flowers.
Black Walnut Tolerant: No
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No
No serious insect or disease problems. Powdery Mildew, wilts, rot, or rust may be something to watch out for but are not serious. Crown or root rot may be an issue if placed in poorly drained soils.
Occasionally, small rodents will dig up the corms and eat them, but they reseed naturally and it’s likely you’ll have more to enjoy.
Staking may be required if they get too tall and begin to flop. Avoid spearing the corm when stakes are inserted.
The origin of the genus name Liatris is unknown; however, the specific epithet aspera is Latin for “rough,” referring to the stiff hairs along the stem and leaves.
It is reported that some Native Americans would eat the corms when food was scarce; however, this cannot be confirmed.
In a prairie garden, combine Rough Blazing Star with:
- Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
- Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)
- Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
- Nodding Pink Onion (Allium cernuum)
- Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides)
- Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Wild Blue Lupine (Lupinus perennis)
- Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea)
- Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium)
- Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
- Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)
To achieve a Xeriscape garden, consider combining Rough Blazing Star with:
- Adam’s Needle (Yucca filamentosa)
- Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
- Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
- White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba)
- Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)
- Bush Cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa)
- Sedums (Sedum spp.)
- Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpureum)