Description & Overview

Showy Blazing Star is an upright, late-summer blooming perennial that boasts fluffy, purple, button-like flowers on spikes, raised above grass-like foliage. Blazing Stars are iconic native plants in Wisconsin prairies and make a great addition to urban landscapes. As a bonus, it is an absolute favorite of the endangered Monarch butterfly during its migration south. This plant may also be known as Meadow Blazing Star, Northern Plains Blazing Star, Rocky Mountain Blazing Star.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 2-4 feet

Mature Spread: 1-2 feet

Growth Rate: Fast

Growth Form: Upright, naturalizes, clump-forming

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Moderate to moist soils, full sun, loamy

Flower: Spike, bright-purple, button-like flowers

Bloom Period: August – September

Foliage: Green, linear, mostly basal with some on lower flower stalks.

Fall Color: None

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Seed with a tuft of light brown 'hair' to assist in dispersal.

Suggested Uses

Showy Blazing Star is found scattered throughout Wisconsin in moist prairies, meadows, and streambanks. It is similar looking to Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera) but is tolerant of wetter sites. Flowers will bloom from the top of the spike to the bottom.

This plant packs a one-two punch by being a pollinator favorite and a solid choice for restoration planting. Even more enticing is its later bloom time that provides nourishment at a time when it’s needed most. Plant at least (10) together for maximum monarch attraction! This is a great plant for beginners as it is low maintenance and if you plant it, pollinators will come.

An ideal addition to rain gardens and bioswales, as its long purple spikes of flowers add a vertical accent and look great paired with other rain garden favorites such as Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and Mountain Mint (Pcynanthemum virginianum).

Showy Blazing Star is an upright, late-summer blooming perennial that boasts fluffy, purple, button-like flowers on spikes, raised above grass-like fo…

Wildlife Value

An excellent nectar source for a variety of insects. As a late summer bloomer, Showy Blazing Star is quickly visited once blooms open up, blooming at the perfect as pollinators are gearing up for winter.

Visitors include Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) and Regal Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria idalia), Common Wood Nymph butterflies (Cercyonis pegala), Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta), Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui), Monarchs butterflies (Danaus plexippus), as well as Hummingbird Clearwing moths (Hemaris thysbe), Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius), and hummingbirds.

Bumblebees (Bombus spp.), Green Sweat bees (Agapostemon spp.), Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.), Syrphid flies (Helophilus spp.), and Bee flies (Villa spp.) all feed on both nectar and pollen.

Mammalian herbivores will dine on the leaves, corms (roots), and stems. This includes rabbits, deer, groundhogs, and livestock.

Birds, such as finches, will feast upon the seeds so be sure to leave spent blooms up over winter until spring.

Maintenance Tips

Showy Blazing Star performs poorly in dry, sandy soils, and where drought conditions may occur. Consistently moderate moisture can be complemented with a mulch layer.

Divide the plant every four years or so to create space and lower competition.

Avoid planting in sites that may collect water in winter as this could freeze the roots.

To prevent the stem from buckling (stem lodging), site in a sunny location and do not over-fertilize (if at all!). Support tall stems by pairing with clump-forming plants such as ornamental grasses.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: No
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

Powdery Mildew, wilts, rot, or rust may be something to watch out for but is not serious. Site plants in an area with good air circulation and leave spent plants over winter to allow for reseeding should root rot take hold.

Leaf Lore

The specific epithet ligulistylis comes from the Latin word ligula, a strap, and the Greek word stylos, a column, referencing the length and resemblance of the plant’s styles.

Reported that Indigenous people would eat the corms when other food was scarce.

Companion Plants

Companion plants for wetter prairie sites include Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), Spotted Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Harlequin Blueflag Iris (Iris versicolor), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum), and Riddell’s Goldenrod (Solidago riddellii).

Other companion plants that would benefit pollinator gardens include Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), Blue Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), Kalm’s St. John’s Wort (Hypericum kalmianium), Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis), and Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpureum).

Showy Blazing Star is an upright, late-summer blooming perennial that boasts fluffy, purple, button-like flowers on spikes, raised above grass-like fo…
beth delain1 avatar

Written by Beth DeLain