Prairie Blazing Stars are spectacular spiky, towering flowers that, to my imaginative mind at least, look like fireworks exploding across the prairie. These native flowers attract a plethora of native insects and honeybees for their nectar sources. If you are considering adding additional native flowers to your pollinator garden this year, Prairie Blazing Stars can be an excellent and magnificent choice.
Besides attracting honeybees, Prairie Blazing Stars (liatris pycnostachya) benefit a wide variety of native insects. Even hummingbirds will visit these flowers. They are also the host plant for the Bleeding Flower Moth and the Blazing Star Borer Moth. In my own garden, I have seen many unusual native bumblebees that I cannot identify buzzing around these flowers. Because they supply a critical source of nectar during the late summer, they always seem to have visiting native insects.
Prairie Blazing Stars range in height from three to five feet. Their height adds lovely and visually appealing interest in a native flower garden. Their height, however, can also be problematic. The winds in Kansas can be fierce, and sometimes the flowers cannot support themselves. Most would require staking or the kind of gardener who, like me, doesn’t mind a five-foot flower splayed sideways and slantways across the garden bed.
These native flowers require full sun. They can tolerate a wide variety of soils, but they prefer loam or clay-loam soil that is wet. Their blooms are pinkish purple, and they bloom from July to September. The bloom pattern is particularly interesting because the blossoms open at the top and then continue to bloom downward. This characteristic may be why I think of fireworks when I see them blooming in the garden. Aside from the occasional sideways plant, they have been superb maintenance-free additions to my pollinator garden.
You should plant Prairie Blazing Stars if you’re looking to add height and visual interest to your pollinator garden. They are excellent nectar sources for honeybees and other native insects. If the height of the flowers is a deterrent, I promise there’s a flower within the liatris family to fit your height and soil requirements. For example, the Scaly Blazing Star grows up to two feet tall and thrives in dry, sandy soil. Regardless of the size or soil requirements, a native flower in the liatris family, like Prairie Blazing Star, will not only benefit your honeybees but also native insects.
For more on the native plants, read Native Plants for Native Bees and Honeybees.
Holm, Heather. Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants. Pollinator Press LLC, 2014.