gayfeather, blazing star
Full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
mid to late summer in colors of white, rose and lavender-purple
Mature Height x Spread
1 to 4 feet x 2 feet
attracts beneficials, attracts hummingbirds, drought tolerant, deer resistant
This North American prairie native grows pretty well in our neck of the woods, too. Blazing star thrives on neglect, producing multiple, tall spikes of white, rose or magenta purple flowers in mid to late summer. The hairy flowers on the cone-shaped stalks are unusual because they open from the top down on the flower stalk. They’re stunning in themselves as they rise above their grass-like foliage, through the air up to 4 feet tall. They are also favorites of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Once established, the plant is drought tolerant and tame in the garden, slowly expanding over time. Blazing star actually grows from under ground corms or bulbs. You can help spread them around by digging and dividing the bulbs in fall.
Where, When and How to Plant
Blazing star is hardy throughout our area. Grow blazing star from corms or purchase transplants from your local garden center. The largest corms (3 inches in diameter) and transplants will be most likely to form flowers the first year. Plant in full or part sun on well-drained soil. Poor water drainage can lead to root rot. Space plants about 1 to 2 feet apart in the garden.
Blazing star doesn’t need additional fertilizer other than compost when planting. In fact, too much fertility will cause the flower stalks to flop. Although blazing star can take dry conditions, during the heat of summer, be sure to apply about 1 inch of water a week or the flower stalks may be stunted.
Regional Advice and Care
Deadhead flower stalks that have gone by and it may rebloom in early fall. After a frost, cut back foliage in fall and compost. To help blazing star spread, dig corms in late fall, remove the smaller bulblets, store indoors in a cool, dark location in winter and replant about 1 to 2 inches deep in spring. These bulblets will eventually form new plants that will flower in the same color as the mother plant.
Companion Planting and Design
Blazing star is a versatile plant. Grow blazing star in a wildflower meadow next to black-eyed Susans and coreopsis or a cottage garden with baby’s breathe, Shasta daisy and dianthus. Grow blazing star in the garden where you can surprise visitors with its tall flower spikes and where you can easy see the butterflies that will frequent the flowers. Blazing star also make a nice cut flower, so consider adding it to your cut flower garden.
“Kobold” and “Floristan” come in purple or white flowers. It stands 2 to 3 feet tall and has a long bloom period. These two types are good cutting varieties. “Snow Queen” grows 3 to 4 feet with creamy white flowers.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.