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Attract Butterflies to Your Garden with Liatris

Posted by Kath LaLiberte on Apr 4, 2017

Liatris flowers with swallowtail butterfly - Longfield Gardens

Would you like to see more butterflies fluttering through your garden this summer? Based on what we’ve seen in our New Jersey trial gardens, it’s very easy to do — just plant some liatris!

Last summer we planted several hundred of these bulb-like corms to see how they would perform in perennial beds, containers and naturalized areas. The plants grew well, and the butterflies were an unexpected bonus! We saw swallowtails and monarchs, fritillaries and painted ladies, eastern commas and skippers — and it was the fuzzy, bottle-brush flowers of liatris that drew them in.

Liatris spicata flowers with butterfly - Longfield Gardens

An Easy and Versatile Plant

Commonly known as blazing star or gayfeather, this North American wildflower has grassy foliage and slender, 2 to 4-foot flower spikes. There are more than a dozen different species and several named cultivars. The one we offer is Liatris spicata, which has lovely, amethyst-purple flowers. Other flower colors include white and rose.

Liatris grows wild in almost every state east of the Rockies, as well as in southern Canada and Northern Mexico. That’s one reason the flowers are so appealing to native pollinators. This tough and adaptable wildflower prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun, but tolerates poor soil, partial shade, heat, humidity and drought. It’s also rarely bothered by insects, disease, rabbits or deer.

Liatris spicata naturalized in a meadow - Longfield Gardens

Liatris grow from corms that are about the size of a quarter. Plant them 3” deep and about 5” apart, though the spacing isn’t critical. It takes just a few seconds to dig a hole, drop in some bulbs and cover them up, so it’s easy to tuck them into an existing perennial garden. Over the years, I have planted several hundred corms in my meadow “garden.” In August, they bloom alongside other naturalized plants, including alliums, rudbeckia, helenium, asters and goldenrod. You can learn more about growing liatris HERE.

Liatris spicata flowers - Longfield Gardens

Liatris is popular with florists, because the straight, sturdy stems add structure to mixed arrangements. The flowers also last a long time in a vase. So if you have a cutting garden or simply enjoy making summer bouquets, that’s another good reason for planting liatris — which you can purchase HERE.

We admit to taking a crazy amount of butterfly photos last summer.  If you plant liatris in your garden, you’ll probably find yourself doing the same thing. If you have children around, all the better! When we couldn’t justify taking even one more butterfly photo, we switched to videos. Take a look HERE.

liatris video

Topics: Habitat Gardens Perennials Summer Blooming Flowers

Kathleen LaLiberte has been writing about gardening for more than 30 years from her home in northern Vermont, where she tends a half acre of flowers, vegetables and fruit. She has been working with Longfield Gardens since 2011.

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