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How to Plant Liatris

By Fern Fischer ; Updated September 21, 2017

Liatris, also called Gayfeathers, has tall spikes of purple flowers and grassy-looking leaves. The leaves may only grow to eighteen inches in height, but the flower spikes reach three or four feet. They bloom from the top down, the opposite of other spike flowers. Liatris will grow in most soil types as long as it has good drainage. You can plant liatris from corms, by crowns or divisions, and by seeds. One flower spike produces hundreds of seeds, and it self-sows easily. Plant liatris in full sun. It is a drought tolerant plant.

Prepare the planting bed in early spring. Till it until the texture is fine, or use a shovel and hoe to dig and break up clumps. Work the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Add only a little compost and bone meal if desired, and mix it into the loosened soil. Rake the bed smooth.

Open a planting trench in the prepared bed with the hoe, making it about 3 inches deep. Place liatris corms in the trench with the concave side down and the flat or slightly pointed side up. Plant the corms 12 to 15 inches apart, and cover them with soil.

Dig a planting hole in the prepared bed for planting a liatris crown. Use a purchased crown, or divide and move crowns from your established liatris. To divide your own liatris, lift an established three or four year old plant in the early spring just as the new leaves begin to grow. Cut apart the tuberous crown into separate pieces, each with at least one eye and some roots, and transplant each into a new spot. Plant crowns at the same depth which they were previously growing, and spread the roots so they make good contact with the soil.

Allow liatris to reseed itself, or save the seeds and plant them in a prepared bed or a flat. Liatris seeds cover the flower spike after it is done blooming. They will fall to the ground and plant themselves, germinating the following spring. You can gather the seeds and plant them in the fall in a prepared bed, or plant them in a flat which you can leave outside all winter. When the small plants are growing in the early spring, separate them and transplant them to a permanent spot.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Tiller, optional
  • Shovel, hoe
  • Compost, optional
  • Bone meal, optional
  • Rake
  • Liatris corms, crowns or seeds

Tips

  • Liatris is a native wildflower of the open plains. It does not require heavy fertilization. Very rich soil can cause the plants to topple over.
  • Chill corms or seeds for at least two months before planting, or allow them to overwinter in the ground. Add mulch in areas where winters are harsh. Liatris must have exposure to cold temperatures and moisture (stratification) before they will grow in the spring.

About the Author

 

Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.