Meadow Blazing Star is a perennial flower native to the Upper Midwest and Central Canada. Scientifically known as Liatris ligulistylis, this flower is the number one plant for attracting Monarch Butterflies. Growing to 5′ tall in full sun and well draining soil, it blooms 4-6 weeks in Summer and attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Look, Meadow Blazing Star really is the single best plant for attracting Monarch Butterflies. I’ve never seen more of them visit a single patch of plants in my life. But we must understand that this is a nectar plant, not a host plant for them. They won’t lay eggs on them, so it still important to grow some type of Milkweed plants nearby.
If you are considering adding this plant to your gardens, there is one other important point you should be aware of – grow Meadow Blazing Star out in the open. This is a prairie plant and will grow best in full sun, exposed from all sides in well-draining soil. If you plant this next to a structure where it gets shaded for half the day, or receives irregular sunlight, it will not grow straight and tall. Instead the stalks will either arch or lean horizontally, reaching for the sun, or grow curved and in funny shapes.
I’ve been growing this plant for years and experimenting with different locations and conditions. I’ve learned how best to utilize this plant in the garden to keep it upright and showy, while maximizing it’s bloom time and the number of Monarch’s it attracts.
In this article:
- Native Range of Meadow Blazing Star
- What are the benefits of Meadow Blazing Star
- How to grow and care for Meadow Blazing Star
- Identification / Characteristics
- What Wildlife, Pests, and Diseases effect Meadow Blazing Star
- Where to buy Meadow Blazing Star
- Uses of Meadow Blazing Star
- Final thoughts
Native Range of Meadow Blazing Star
The primary native range of Meadow Blazing Star is Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, the Southern areas of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan in Canada. Significant populations also exist in South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
|Scientific Name||Liatris ligulistylis|
|Common Name(s)||Meadow Blazing Star, Prairie Blazing Star, Rocky Mountain Blazing Star, Rocky Mountain Gayfeather, Meadow Gayfeather,|
|Native Range, USDA Zone||North Central United States, Canada. USDA hardiness zones 3-8.|
|Bloom Time / Duration||Late Summer, 4-6 weeks|
|Color||Purple to Pink|
|Height||3-5′ (90-150 cm)|
|Spacing / Spread||1-2′ (30-60 cm)|
|Light Requirements||Full sun|
|Soil Types||Sandy loam to clay|
|Moisture||Medium Moist soil, well-drained|
|Fauna Associations / Larval Hosts||Numerous bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds attracted.|
What are the Benefits of Meadow Blazing Star
I am going to be blunt. There is not another species plant that will attract more Monarch Butterflies to your garden than Meadow Blazing Star, (Liatris ligulistylis). It is the ultimate Monarch Magnet. The nectar is irresistible and frequently reproduced.  Now that the Monarch Butterfly has made the endangered species list, it is all the more important to provide nectar sources as well as host plants (milkweeds) for their migration to Mexico.
Once Meadow Blazing Star begins blooming in Summer I will generally have 3 Monarchs on my plants, at a minimum, from shortly after dawn until dusk. This is not an exaggeration. Frequently I can see many more butterflies at one time. The nectar must be frequently replenished causing the Monarchs to stay near this plant for long periods.
And forgive me if I keep repeating the Latin name throughout this article, but it is necessary that you recognize it. There are dozens of species of Liatris, and if you shop native plant nurseries you will encounter many of them. And all those species of Liatris will attract pollinators, including Monarch Butterflies. But it is this specific species, Liatris ligulistylis that will attract Monarch’s to a much greater degree. It is sometimes referred to as the ultimate Monarch Magnet.
The long lasting blooms create a stunning purple accent and display in any garden that receives full sun. It will bloom huge numbers of purple flowers beginning in early to mid-Summer, and lasting for over a month.
Birds love the seeds
Finches are very attracted to the seed heads after blooming. Keeping the stalks up until Spring will make for some ‘self-seeding’, but you will have birds eating the seed from the stalks and on the ground throughout the Winter.
This plant doesn’t just attract Monarchs. Other butterflies such as Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, and smaller butterflies like the Silver Spotted Skipper will all frequent Meadow Blazing Star. Oh, and it also attracts a huge variety of bees. And finally you may be treated to seeing some hummingbirds visit for the nectar as well. For these reasons this plant is often included in prairie restorations of the upper Midwest, as it is so valuable to so many insects and wildlife. 
Grow and Care for Meadow Blazing Star
If you plant Meadow Blazing Star in well-drained soil out in the open, where it can get full sun from all directions, you won’t have any problems with it. This plant needs exposure to sun and wind to stand tall.
Meadow Blazing Star Sunlight Requirements
Although Meadow Blazing Star can tolerate partial shade, it will grow best in full sun. It will produce more blooms, thereby being more showy and attracting even more pollinators and Monarchs.
Meadow Blazing Star Soil Requirements
Meadow Blazing Star is not too picky when it comes to soil types. It will grow in sandy loam to clay. The key factor is that it needs to drain.
If your soil is rich, black and loamy, or very fertile, then Meadow Blazing Star may be prone to leaning or flopping over. This is because excess nitrogen will cause it to grow very tall, resulting in it becoming top-heavy.
Meadow Blazing Star prefers average water needs. It can tolerate wide open sunny places and slopes to some extent. It may suffer from root rot if the soil doesn’t drain or is too wet. Pay attention to your plants during times of drought, as they may need supplemental water.
Meadow Blazing Star will self-seed to some degree. You can reduce this by deadheading the plant. Once flowering is done, simply cut the stalks back.
However, I feel I should tell you from personal experience that the amount of self-seeding is fairly easy to control in Spring. But mid-Spring you will be fully aware of all any and all volunteers. And, they simply look like blades of grass and pull very easily.
Why does this matter? Well, it is because birds do love to eat the seeds of Liatris plants, and Meadow Blazing Star is no exception. It starts with Goldfinches, but will progress to other species of birds like Chickadees and Dark-Eyed Juncos later in Fall. They will continue to eat seed from the ground into Winter.
Cutting back stalks
Once the plant goes dormant in Autumn, you can safely cut the stalks back to ground to keep the area looking tidy. However, we recommend that you leave the stalks up for bird seed, and then wait until Spring. At which time you can cut the stalks back to about 12″ tall, allowing any overwintering insects to survive as they pupate into their final form. You can read more about delaying flower garden maintenance, and it’s benefits for wildlife and beneficial insects here.
Staking Meadow Blazing Star
If Meadow Blazing Star is not grown in the open, exposed to all sides from the sun, then it is likely that it will not grow straight and tall, but at curve & bend at one or more places resulting in the plant leaning/flopping. You may be required to stake the plant to keep it tall/upright if not grown in the open.
I’ve experimented with growing this plant in several places, and have repeatedly seen this happen. While my plants that are fully exposed in the open grow straight/tall year after year.
Meadow Blazing Star should not require supplemental fertilizer. In fact, it may be detrimental in that regular fertilizers are often high in Nitrogen, which will make a plant grow taller & produce more leaves. This results in the plant becoming ‘leggy’, and thus more likely to lean or flop over.
How to Grow Meadow Blazing Star from Seed
Meadow Blazing Star needs 60 days of cold moist stratification and exposure to sunlight to germinate. It is a great candidate for Winter Sowing, as you can simply prepare your container and plant your seed in the Fall or Winter, then have them naturally germinate in the Spring. 
If you didn’t have time to Winter Sow this plant, but would like to grow it from seed, you will need to cold stratify in the refrigerator using a moist paper towel and a baggy. Simply fold a full-sized paper towel in to quarters, and get the towel moist but not wet. Then, place some seed in the middle of the towel so it is sandwiched between two sheets of moist paper towel above and below. Place this into a zip-lock bag and put it in the refrigerator for two months. After two months has passed, the seed can be sown per the process below:
Process to grow Meadow Blazing Star, Liatris ligulistylis from seed
The following steps assume you either are Winter Sowing your seed, or have already cold-stratified it per the previous section.
- Fill a suitable container with moist potting soil.
- Sprinkle Meadow Blazing Star seed onto the soil
- Press the seed into the soil, but don’t cover it.
- Place the container in a location where it will receive morning sun and afternoon shade.
- Germination will occur in Spring once temperatures warm up.
Once you begin to see true leaves, you may separate seedlings, thin seedlings, or transplant to a larger container. Note that the root / corm can be a bit fragile at the seedling stage. And care must be exercised when separating Liatris seedlings.
Dividing Meadow Blazing Star
Meadow Blazing Star can be divided in Spring or Fall. To divide Meadow Blazing Star, simply dig up the near-dormant root stock (corms) and use a pruning saw or knife to cut the mass of corm into two or more pieces. Then replant immediately. For more detail, see our guide to dividing Liatris.
Dividing plants in Spring or Fall is best because the plant is nearly dormant, so it’s energy isn’t going to blooms or seed production. The heat load is low, and the soil is generally moist.
Identification and Characteristics of Meadow Blazing Star
The stalk of Meadow Blazing Star is tall, unbranched, and purple-red in color with vertical ridges. In optimum conditions a stalk will reach about 5′ tall.
Meadow Blazing Star will have basal leaves at the base of the plant that are Lanceolate in shape, 5-7″ long with smooth margins, and sessile. As the leaves progress up the stalk, the leaves will become alternate, linear in shape and about 2-4″ long, by 1/8″-3/8″ wide (4-10mm).
Starting from the middle to the top of the stalk will be numerous flowerheads arrayed around the circumference. Each flowerhead will contain numerous tiny purple/pink flowers. The bloom duration is 4-6 weeks. In their native range this generally starts in August and lasts into September.
The flowers appear hairy, and almost remind me like something from the Muppet’s TV show.
You can easily save seed from Meadow Blazing Star. Several weeks after the flowers fade, simply cut the stalk off below the seed head. Using your hand, brush the seed off the stalk into a bucket or bag. Make sure there is no water on the seed, then store it in a zip-lock bag in the fridge until ready to Winter Sow the seed. You can find more detail on this topic at our guide to saving Liatris seed.
The root system of Meadow Blazing Star will be a corm (similar to bulbs) and fibrous roots. The corm will increase in size each year, and can be divided every 3-5 years. Division is a great way to propagate this plant, as from each mature Corm you will get at least one flowering stalk.
Wildlife, Pests, and Diseases associated with Meadow Blazing Star
Like many Native Plants, Meadow Blazing Star can be browsed/eaten by deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and other mammals. I’ve personally had problems with rabbits eating the foliage on both young and mature plants.
Deer and rabbits
To help reduce herbivore browsing on Meadow Blazing Star, I strongly recommend you use Liquid Fence regularly to protect the plants. I use it on a regular basis in my gardens, and it has consistently worked for me to stop rabbits and deer from eating my plants. Just make sure you reapply after rains. You can find a link to Liquid Fence on our recommended products page.
Where you can buy Meadow Blazing Star
Meadow Blazing Star is not typically sold in nurseries, as it isn’t a typical ‘garden friendly’ plant. But it can be purchased at specialty nurseries that deal in Native Plants. You can find native plant nurseries near you on our interactive map.
Where to buy seeds
We have ordered a variety of native flower seeds from Everwilde Farms, which you can order right from Amazon through our link on our RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS PAGE. (We may earn a small commission when you purchase through our links, at no cost to you. This helps support our website.)
Uses of Meadow Blazing Star
Meadow Blazing Star is a great choice as a focal point in a butterfly garden, flower bed, along a border, or in a meadow / micro-prairie or wildflower garden. In formal mulched flower beds, the key is to keep it exposed to sun/wind from all sides to keep it upright, and not to fertilize it. In very fertile loamy soils, it can lean/flop.
Make sure you plant more than a single specimen! This plant should be planted in groups of three at a minimum. Personally I have it in patches of 5-7 individual plants so that I am supplying plenty of nectar too migrating Monarch Butterflies.
How to stop Meadow Blazing Star from leaning or flopping
Meadow Blazing Star is a beautiful plant that is drought tolerant and will thrive in full sun with well-draining soil. But there is one important requirement to keeping maintenance to a minimum – plant it in the open where it receives full sun from all sides! This will ensure the stalks grow tall and straight.
Like other species of Liatris such as Prairie Blazing Star, it it doesn’t get sun from all directions it will have a tendency to lean or grow with funny curves.
I grow this plant in 3 locations (currently), and two of them receive significant sun from either all, or most possible directions. In those two areas the plants grow straight and tall.
But in the 3rd location, which is next to our deck, the plants receive morning sun, and then late afternoon sun. This cluster of 5 plants mostly either lean, or grow in funny shapes. Now, nobody sees these plants as they are not in a prominent location. And the reason I grow them here is so that we have Monarchs flying above our heads when eating or relaxing on our back deck, so it works. But I want you to learn from my experience that if you want this plant to look good without staking, you need to keep it in the open.
There are numerous companion plants that will grow well and look nice in the same conditions as Meadow Blazing Star. Butterfly Weed and Swamp Milkweed are two strong recommendations, as they will host Monarch caterpillars, but do not spread via underground rhizomes, and are therefore quite friendly in the suburban yard. But in this section I’ll provide some plants that bloom concurrently as Meadow Blazing Star and can grow in the same conditions of sun/soil/moisture.
- Blunt Mountain Mint
- Virginia Mountain Mint
- Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
- False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
- Liatirs pycnostachya
- Liatris aspera
- Echinacea paradoxa
- Wild Sunflower
For some plants that will bloom before Meadow Blazing Star, try the following:
- Foxglove Beardtongue
- Wild Bergamot
- Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
- Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
- Liatris Spicata
For a list of companion plants that bloom after Meadow Blazing Star
I can find no documentation for medicinal or culinary uses of Liatris ligulistylis. As far I can tell, there are no medicinal nor edible uses of this plant for humans.
Final Thoughts on Meadow Blazing Star
If attracting Monarch Butterflies to your yard is one of your gardening goals, then there is no better plant than Meadow Blazing Star. Used appropriately, it can add significant beauty and color to your yard for over a month, to say nothing of the numerous Monarchs that will visit your home.
But it is important to keep host species nearby, as the Monarch is critically endangered and can use all the help it can get. Therefore you should be planting Milkweeds in your yard to offer them a place to lay their eggs at the same time you are attracting them with the plentiful nectar that Meadow Blazing Star will provide.
But this plant is truly one of a kind, in that it is almost ridiculous how many Monarch Butterflies you will get to see if you grow a patch of Meadow Blazing Star.
 – USDA. Liatris ligulistylis
 – Holm, Heather. Pollinators of native plants : attract, observe and identify pollinators and beneficial insects with native plants. Minnetonka, MN : Pollination Press LLC. 2014. pp90, 245.
 – Lawson, Nancy, Richard I. Vane‐Wright, and Michael Boppré. “The puzzle of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and their association with plants containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids.” Ecological Entomology 46.5 (2021): 999-1005.
 – USDA, NRCS. “The plantss database (http://plants. usda. gov, May 2011). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro.” (2015): 27401-4901.
 – MURPHY, ROBERT K., JENNIFER M. MUSCHA, and STACY L. ADOLF-WHIPP. “A Diverse Prairie Flora in the Drift Plain of Northwestern North Dakota.” Prairie Naturalist 39.3/4 (2007).
 – Jordan, Sam. “Castilleja.” Publication of the Wyoming Native Plant Society 37.4 (2018).
 – Robson, Diana Bizecki. “Identification of plant species for crop pollinator habitat enhancement in the northern prairies.” Journal of Pollination Ecology 14 (2014): 218-234.
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