Scaly Liatris Is a Native That Offers Blooms All Summer Long

On the first day of August 2006, my botanizing companion and I were making only our third trip to a barrens on a farm owned by friends in Kentucky. We already knew that this spot never looked the same twice, so we had few expectations as to what we might see. Our delight on arrival can hardly be described. As far as the eye could see was a sea of shades of purple, pink, and white. My designer brain immediately kicked in—if only I could replicate this in someone’s garden!

Scaly liatris is typically found in dry sandy prairies and barrens. It is fairly unusual, being shorter than most other Liatris species. When grown in a garden situation in decent soil, this plant looks all the better for the extra nutrients and water it gets. It can have a more “roundy-moundy” appearance, it flowers for an extended period of time (throughout summer), and, unlike most other liatris, it can be divided. It also attracts a plethora of pollinators, making it both a gardener’s and an entomologist’s dream.

A less obvious attribute of this perennial is its attractive seed heads (though the stage just prior to immature seed can be a tad ugly for a while), and for those of us who like to grow our own plants, the seeds are not difficult to collect and grow on. has been long-lived for me, and I have not encountered any serious diseases or pests, though deer will munch on it occasionally. It is a prairie native certainly worth seeking out and is sure to catch attention.

Scaly liatris

Liatris squarrosa


Zones: 4–8

Conditions: Full sun; dry, sandy, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern and central United States


Hilary Cox is an Arizona-based horticulturist, garden designer, and photographer. She is the co-author of The Gardener’s Guide to Prairie Plants.

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