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Liatris microcephala (Dwarf Blazing Star)

Smallhead Blazing Star, Smallhead Gayfeather, Smallhead Liatris, Lacinaria microcephala

Blazing Star, Liatris, Liatris microcephala, Smallhead Blazing Star, Smallhead Gayfeather, Smallhead Liatris

Liatris microcephala, commonly known as Smallhead Blazing Star or Dwarf Blazing Star, is a perennial wildflower admired for its slender stature and feathery purple blossoms. Its delicate appearance belies a hardy nature, capable of thriving in tough environments.

Liatris microcephala: An In-depth Look

Native: This species is native to the southeastern United States, with a natural distribution, particularly in the Appalachian mountains, where it graces rocky outcrops and open, sunny habitats.

Plant Type and Habit: Dwarf Blazing Star falls within the herbaceous perennials category and is known for its upright, clump-forming habit. Its grass-like foliage and dense spikes of flowers create a vertical element in gardens.

Size: It’s a modestly sized plant, typically reaching 1 to 2 feet in height (30-60 cm) with a spread of about 9-12 inches (22-30 cm), making it a perfect choice for smaller gardens or spaces where a vertical accent is desired without overwhelming height.

Flowers: The flowers are its standout feature. They form bottlebrush-like spikes, starting a deep, rosy purple and fading to a lighter hue as they age. Blooms are packed along the stems and are a magnet for pollinators. Post-bloom, the flowers give way to small, dry, and hard fruits (achenes) that carry seeds, which can self-sow in favorable conditions but are not aggressive spreaders.

Bloom Time: Flowering usually occurs in mid-late summer to early fall for 3-4 weeks, bringing a welcome splash of color when many other perennials are past their prime.

Foliage: The foliage is narrow and grass-like, forming a tufted mound at the plant’s base. Its texture provides an excellent contrast to broader-leaved plants.

Uses: Its vertical form and late blooming make it an excellent addition to perennial borders, rock gardens, native plant gardens, and prairies. Its cut flowers are also long-lasting in bouquets, providing a unique texture and vibrant color.

Hardiness: Typically hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9, this plant is well-suited to a variety of garden settings within its range.

Pollinators: The flowers attract various pollinators, especially bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Its blooms are a particular favorite of the endangered Monarch butterfly during migration.

Toxicity: There are no known toxic effects of Liatris microcephala to humans or animals, making it a safe choice for gardens frequented by pets and children.

Deer and Rabbit: The plant is considered resistant to browsing by deer and rabbits, likely due to its somewhat rough foliage texture and essential oil content, which are less palatable to these creatures.

Drought: One of the most valued aspects of this plant is its exceptional drought tolerance, making it suitable for xeriscaping and low-water-use landscapes.

Invasiveness: Dwarf Blazing Star is non-invasive. It has a clumping habit and does not spread rapidly, which makes it an ecologically responsible choice for planting.

Benefits: The ecological benefits of planting the Dwarf Blazing Star include supporting native pollinator populations and contributing to the biodiversity of garden ecosystems.

Blazing Star Growing Tips

Light: Full sun is ideal for Liatris microcephala to flourish, ensuring vibrant blooms and a sturdy form.

Soil: Prefers well-draining soil; tolerant of rocky, sandy, or loamy substrates. Slightly acid pH is preferred.

Water: Drought-tolerant once established; water regularly until then. Overwatering can lead to root rot.

Fertilizer: Low fertility needs; too much fertilizer can decrease flowering. This plant will flop if the soil is too rich.

Pruning: Deadhead spent flowers to promote a tidy appearance. Cut back foliage in late winter or early spring before new growth appears.

Propagation: Divide clumps in spring or fall. Seed sowing can be done in the fall or after the last frost in spring.

Pests and Diseases: Generally pest-resistant, but watch for aphids and root rot in overly moist conditions. Good air circulation helps prevent most fungal diseases.

Requirements

Hardiness 6 - 9
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Compositae
Genus Liatris
Common names Blazing Star, Gayfeather
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spread 9" - 1'
(23cm - 30cm)
Spacing 12" (30cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Cut Flowers, Showy
Native Plants United States, Southeast, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky
Tolerance Drought
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Garden Uses Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow, Gravel and Rock Garden
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Liatris punctata (Dotted Blazing Star)
Liatris cylindracea (Dwarf Blazing Star)
Liatris punctata var. mucronata (Texas Blazing Star)
Liatris spicata ‘Floristan Violet’ (Blazing Star)
Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ (Blazing Star)
Liatris spicata ‘Alba’ (Gayfeather)

Recommended Companion Plants

Chrysopsis mariana (Maryland Golden Aster)
Ruellia humilis (Wild Petunia)
Solidago nemoralis (Gray Goldenrod)

Find In One of Our Guides or Gardens

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For the Love of Bees: Best Flowers to Attract them to Your Garden
Plants with Purple Flowers to Add Charm to Your Garden
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 6 - 9
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Compositae
Genus Liatris
Common names Blazing Star, Gayfeather
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spread 9" - 1'
(23cm - 30cm)
Spacing 12" (30cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Cut Flowers, Showy
Native Plants United States, Southeast, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky
Tolerance Drought
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Garden Uses Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow, Gravel and Rock Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Liatris (Blazing Star)
Not sure which Liatris (Blazing Star) to pick?
Compare Now

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