These fluffy spike
flowers are the only ones with blooms that open from the top down.
all in the family
Liatris (pronounced lie-AT-tris) is a member of the
Asteraceae/ Compositae family and, as such, is closely related
to chrysanthemums, sunflowers, Gerberas, Dahlias,
Zinnias, bachelor’s buttons, thistles, yarrow and scores of
The most prominent species that is commercially grown for florists
is L. spicata (spi-KAY-tuh), commonly known as gay-feather.
Other common names include blazing star and button snakeroot. The
derivation of the botanical name Liatris is unknown, but the
specific epithet spicata comes from the Latin word spica,
Liatrises form slender bloom spikes, 6 to 10 inches long, of
densely clustered flowers with needlelike petals. The florets
encircle the stems. Unlike most spike flowers, which open from the
bottom to the top, these flowers open from the top down. Stems are
usually tall (18 to 32 inches), thin, stiff and covered with thin
The most common hues are purple, lavender and red-violet, but white,
pink and rose-colored varieties are becoming more readily available.
Liatrises are available year-round from both domestic and
When purchasing Liatrises, look for stems with one-fourth to
one-third of the blooms open. You may purchase tighter flowers, but
you’ll have to use a full-dose flower food or bud-opening solution
to get blooms to open. Also, watch for yellowing foliage, which is
frequently the result of dehydration and/or gray mold (Botrytis),
a fungal problem that occurs most often in field-grown Liatrises.
Liatrises are generally packaged 10 stems per bunch, and they
may be graded according to stem length: e.g., superior, 26 to 32
inches; fancy, 22 to 25 inches; and utility, 18 to 21 inches.
Liatrises are prone to water stress, so it’s important to
process these flowers immediately upon their arrival in your shop.
Remove the bunches from
the box(es), and check flower quality.
Remove all stem bindings as well as all foliage that would be
under water in storage containers.
Rinse stems under tepid running water, especially the stems of
Recut the ends, on an angle, with a sharp, sterilized blade,
removing at least 1 inch of stem.
Immediately dip or place the stems into a hydration solution,
especially if flowers are wilted or limp, then place them into
clean storage containers with lukewarm (100 F to 110 F) properly
prepared fresh flower-food solution. The sugar in flower food
will ensure the opening of most of the florets on the spike,
thereby increasing these flowers’ vase life; however, it doesn’t
make individual florets last longer. In addition, the foliage
generally fades (yellows, blackens or dries out) before all the
blossoms have opened and expired.
Place storage containers immediately into a floral refrigerator at
33 F to 35 F with 80 percent to 90 percent relative humidity. Make
sure there is good air circulation among the stems to prevent
Botrytis from developing. Allow the flowers to take up water in
the cooler for at least two hours before selling or designing with
Depending on the stage of maturity when they’re sold and the care
they receive, Liatrises have a reported vase life of six to
14 days at the consumer level. Advise consumers to recut the stems
and change the flower-food solution in their containers every two or
issue with gas
Liatrises are not sensitive to ethylene gas.
Some florists have contracted contact dermatitis (skin inflammation)
on their hands from touching Liatrises. If any problems
occur, wear gloves when processing or designing with these flowers.
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