These showy plants native to the southern and central U.S. are butterfly magnets. Basal tufts of narrow, grassy leaves grow from thick, often tuberous rootstocks. In summer or early fall, the tufts lengthen into tall stems densely set with slender leaves and topped by a narrow plume of small, fluffy purple (sometimes white) flower heads. Flowers of most species are unusual in open- ing from top of spike downward. Choice cut flowers; deer resistant.
These plants endure heat, cold, drought, and poor soil. Fertilizing will give you larger flower spikes, but it also results in taller plants that need staking. Best used in mixed perennial borders, although the rosy purple color calls for careful placing to avoid color clashes.
L. ligulistylis. MEADOW BLAZING STAR. Grows 35 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide, with reddish purple flowers that open from dark red buds.
L. microcephala. DWARF BLAZING STAR. Only 12 ft. tall and up to 1 ft. across, with rosy purple flowers. Try this small blazing star in rock gardens or as a ground cover in hot, dry areas.
L. mucronata. BOTTLEBRUSH BLAZING STAR. To 3 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide. Rosy purple spikes. Tolerates dry, limy soils, providing drainage is good. Goldfinches eat the seeds.
L. pycnostachya. KANSAS BLAZING STAR. To 35 ft. tall, 12 ft. wide, with bright purple flowers. Likes some moisture but tolerates drought.
L. scariosa. PRAIRIE BLAZING STAR. To 23 ft. high, 1 ft. wide. Reddish purple flowers. Differs from most other blazing stars in that its blossoms open nearly all at once; also prefers somewhat drier soil than most. 'September Glory' is taller than the species (to 45 ft.); 'White Spire' is similar but has white flowers.
L. spicata. SPIKE BLAZING STAR. To 5 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide, with light purple blossoms tightly clustered in dense spikes. Lower-growing selections include white-flowered 'Alba' (34 ft. tall); 'Floristan White' (23 ft.), with profuse white blossom spikes that are good for cutting; 'Kobold' (22 ft., needs no staking), with deeper purple blooms than the species; and 'Silvertips' (23 ft.), bearing lavender flowers with a silvery finish.
L. squarrosa. SCALY BLAZING STAR. To 23 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide. Bears branched spikes of large, red-purple flowers, with the top flower cluster larger than the lower ones.