Operation NICE! plant of the season
Perennial: Gayfeather (Liatris mucronata)
Photo: by Kathy Saucier
Description: Liatris is a large eastern and midwestern North
American genus that includes 43 species, collectively called
Gayfeather, Blazing Star, or Button-Snakeroot. Narrow-Leaf Gayfeather,
L. mucronata, is native to eastern and northern Texas, south to the
Edwards Plateau and west to the rolling plains. This prairie
perennial has multiple stalks that give the plant its 1 to 1.5 feet
width. It grows 1 to 3 feet tall and has an erect growth
pattern, growing from corm-like structures in the soil. True
to its name, Narrow Leaf Gayfeather has narrow leaves that are
approximately 2 inches long.
Blooms: Gayfeather blooms from August through the beginning of October
and occasionally up to November with lavender to purple flower
spikes. Each flower spike, with many ½ inch
corollas, starts to bloom at the top and slowly descends toward the
base. The flowers attract butterflies and
Planting sites: Gayfeather should be planted in full sun to light shade
in well-drained soil. It tolerates a range of soil pH, from
weakly acidic to moderately alkaline. It will grow well in sandy loam,
loam, or even clay-based soil if it is well-drained. Plants
should be spaced 1-2 feet apart. Do not plant Gayfeather
where it might experience “wet feet” or it may
rot. Gayfeather seeds can be planted in the early spring or
in the fall.
Watering Instructions: Gayfeather should be watered well
immediately after planting and then every 2-3 weeks during the first
growing season if there is no rain. Like most native plants,
Gayfeather should not be over-watered. After the
first growing season, Gayfeather should survive with existing rainfall
because it is very drought tolerant.
Comments: L. mucronata is similar to the widely cultivated Gayfeather
species L. spicata in the appearance of its bloom and foliage, but
unlike L. spicata, L. mucronata is much longer lived and better adapted
to North Texas. Gayfeather needs no soil amendments, although
it is not recommended for poorly draining hard clay soil.
When L. mucronata is grown in fertilized garden soils, its flower
stalks may grow long and leggy and fall over. After several
years, Gayfeather may be propagated by digging up and dividing its
underground corm-like or bulb-like structures. Gayfeather
makes a nice cut flower for fall bouquets.
Look for the NICE! Plant of the Season signs and information sheets on
your next visit to a participating North Texas nursery. Thank
you for using native plants in your landscapes.
Written by: Dr. Rebecca Dickstein, Professor of Biology, University of North Texas.
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Last noted update by Lon: March 19, 2009.