Why is my Liatris falling over?

Answered by Tom Adger

Liatris, also known as blazing star or gayfeather, is a beautiful and resilient plant that generally does not require staking. However, it is interesting to note that sometimes, under specific conditions, liatris plants can topple over. One of the reasons for this is when they are grown in very rich and fertile soils.

The reason behind this paradox lies in the plant’s characteristics and growth habits. Liatris is adapted to thrive in average or poor soils, including rocky or gravelly ones. It has developed a sturdy and robust root system that allows it to withstand challenging conditions. In such soils, the plant’s flower stalks tend to grow upright and remain stable without any external support.

On the other hand, when liatris is planted in overly fertile soils, it can lead to excessive vegetative growth. This means that the plant invests more energy into developing lush foliage rather than focusing on building strong stems to support the weight of the flowers. As a result, the flower stalks may become top-heavy and prone to bending or falling over.

In my personal experience, I have encountered this issue when growing liatris in a garden with nutrient-rich soil. Despite providing the plant with optimal conditions for growth, including ample sunlight and regular watering, I noticed that the flower stalks would often droop or collapse.

To prevent this from happening, there are a few measures you can take. Firstly, you can try reducing the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter or compost to improve drainage and promote healthier root development. This will help redirect the plant’s energy towards producing sturdier stems rather than excessive foliage.

Another approach is to provide some form of support for the liatris plants. This can be achieved by using stakes or trellises placed strategically around the flower bed. Care should be taken to ensure that the support structures are not too obtrusive or visually unappealing. I personally prefer using discreet stakes made of bamboo or other natural materials that blend well with the garden.

It is also worth noting that proper spacing between liatris plants can contribute to their stability. Crowded plantings can lead to competition for resources, resulting in weaker stems. Aim for a spacing of around 12 to 18 inches between each plant to allow for adequate air circulation and room for growth.

The paradoxical nature of liatris falling over in fertile soils is a result of the plant’s adaptation to thrive in average or poor soils. By understanding this and implementing measures to reduce soil fertility or provide support, you can help prevent your liatris plants from toppling over and enjoy their beautiful upright blooms.