Northern Blazing Star is native from Maine to Wisconsin and south to Alabama. It prefers medium to dry soils, especially with a sandy or rocky component. It can grow between 2-3’ tall; taller in moister soils. The purple flowers are thistle-like and are typically about 1” across. The flowers grow in columned bunches that can extend up to 18” of the overall plant stem. Flowers bloom from the top of the plant toward the bottom, so may fall over unless tied to a stake. These flowers attract many bees and butterflies, especially bumblebees and Monarch butterflies. The foliage of Northern Blazing Star can be quite appetizing to deer and rabbits, especially in the early years, so keep them protected until they are established.
Young plants will need to be watered as they develop; because of the development of their extensive root systems, blooming usually does not occur until the second year of growth. Mature plants tolerate drought well, though they also flourish in moist soil. After three or four years, the plants may need to be divided for the best growth. This should be done after blooming, when the plant has gone dormant. These plants attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. When the flowers fade, they will eventually develop into a fluffy seed head. Small birds love to eat the seed.
The blooms make excellent cut flowers. For dried flowers, hang the spikes upside down in a dry, warm place for about three weeks. Northern Blazing Star is sometimes called Gayfeather.
Click here for more information from USDA-NRCS.