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 other flowers.

name dropping
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, meaning spike.

physical examination
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 lance-shaped leaves.

show your colors
The most common hues are purple, lavender and red-violet, but white, pink and rose-colored varieties are becoming more readily available.

always in season
Liatrises are available year-round from both domestic and foreign growers.

buy the way
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.

good grades
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.

health care
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 field-grown flowers.

  • 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.

cool condition
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 them.

life span
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 three days.

no issue with gas
Liatrises are not sensitive to ethylene gas.

pain reaction
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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