Liatris spicata

Liatris spicata

Liatris spicata 'Kobold' is a puzzle--why is it not more popular?  It's a lumpy corm that is easy to grow, comes back every year, and needs no care other than a light tug or two to clean up the dead stuff after it dies back in late fall.  The flowers are really cool, like a living version of a Fourth Of July sparkler.  They have the rare quality of blooming from the top down rather than the bottom up, as most spike-form flowers do.  Butterflies visit them.

Liatris spicata

I first saw this flower in a bouquet--it makes a fine long-lasting cut flower.  Then I saw the corms  for sale in one of those glossy catalogs with a Dutch names and very pretty pictures, selling inexpensive bulbs and plants of uneven quality. 

I ordered a few things along with Liatris spicata, at something like 10 corms for $5, shipping free.  The other bulbs and plants I ordered are long gone, but the Liatris has been great:  nine years later they are still coming back and  blooming. 

The bronzy red foliage of 'Amazing Red' Phormium sets off the purple Liatris flowers:
Liatris spicata

Liatris spicata is a native of most of eastern North America.  It is found in moist, though not boggy areas, so it likes at least a touch of moisture in the soil year-round.  The ones I planted on an arid slope died of thirst, but the clump between roses 'English Garden' and 'Marilyn Monroe' has been happy, very slowly increasing over the years without invading the root space of the roses. 

The foliage:
Liatris spicata foliage

Festuca glauca seed heads with the rich green of Liatris foliage in the background:

Festuca seed heads

I forget all about this plant until it blooms.  The tuffet of grassy foliage is nicer than your average bulb/corm/tuber type of foliage--it doesn't turn to slime like Hippeastrums and Narcissus.  It looks deeply green and lovely a good long while before drying up in late summer.   Liatris spicata, without a doubt an Unsung Garden Hero.   A living Fourth Of July sparkler. 

Liatris spicata


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