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Midwesterner moves West: it's liatris.

Midwesterner moves West: it's liatris

It's about time liatris got the attention it deserves. A native of our Midwestern prairies, the plant has until now drawn more admiration in Europe than on its native continent.

Liatris makes clumps of somewhat grassy-looking leaves, out of which rise flowering spikes in summer. Although technically daisies, the flower heads resemble little balls of purplish fluff arranged in a plume. Hence the common name, gayfeather.

Unlike most plants, liatris opens its florets from the top of the spike downward. If it's cut when the first few have opened, florets will continue to open until the spike is in full display.

Liatris has been seen occasionally in perennial borders in the Northwest, but bulb dealers say that it is coming into demand throughout the West (except in the low and intermediate deserts, where it doesn't thrive). This perennial grows from a tuberous rootstock that resembles a small, hairy caladium bulb. Look for plants in containers now, or wait until next winter for tubers. Grow in well-drained soil in full or afternoon sun. Divide and replant when clumps become crowded.

To grow liatris in containers, select deep, well-drained pots. A dozen plants in a half-barrel make a fine show, and tubers are inexpensive--about 30 cents each.

Photo: Fluffy spires of rosy purple flowers, 12 to 15 inches long, are good for cutting. Total height of liatris is 2 to 3 feet
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1988
Words:235
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