Late Summer Prairie Garden



Rough Liatris and Showy Goldenrod make a striking late summer combination.  The blossoms of Rough Liatris (Liatris aspera) begin to open at the top of the stem in mid to late August and continue with a spectacular show well into September.  Its flower tufts spill out of  the large cups arranged in an open fashion alternately around the 1-4’ stem.     In nature it is found in dry prairie or sandy Black Oak savanna, but will grow in full sun in  well-drained, mesic loam.  Blazing Stars grow from corms in the manner of a crocus; in wet winters and springs the corms sometimes rot, so one must be careful to plant them in well-drained situations.  They also like a calcareous situation; planting them next to concrete or rocks increases their size dramatically.



It is growing out of a matrix of Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) in bloom now also.   Growing 1-3’ tall, the gorgeous, bright golden plumes set the prairie aglow all through the month of  September.   The seed heads of Purple Coneflower add  to the picture.



Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) adds another color and another layer to the picture.  (The Latin name for this genus used to be Aster.)


The tiny blue-green needle-like foliage was thought to resemble that of Heath; thereby the name.  Tiny, gold-centered white stars form dense plumes at the top of stiff 1’ to 3’ stems beginning in mid-September and lasting through mid-October.  In the wild it is found in dry and mesic  prairies and hill prairies.  It increases by rhizomes and seed.  Don’t confuse it with  the similar-looking Hairy Aster (Symphyotrichum pilosus), a weedy plant, common in waste ground, abandoned fields, old pastures, and rights-of-way.  How to tell the difference?  The flowers of Hairy Aster are larger, and the stems are, well, hairy.


Little Bluestem  (Schizachyrium scoparium) is not apparent in the prairie photo, but it would add immeasurably to the composition, both environmentally and aesthetically.  The dazzling white, feathery seeds catch the light in fall and sparkle like diamonds on the now copper, 3-4’ stems.

3 Responses to Late Summer Prairie Garden

  1. Suzanne Massion September 17, 2016 at 10:30 am #

    Pat, thanks for the distinction between Hairy and Heath Asters. Unfortunately, I think there’s both out in our prairie. Regarding goldenrod, I know we have a ton of altissima, which we pull out when we can, but I cherish a few clumps of what I think is rigida. Solidago ulmnifolia is also thriving and spreading on the north side of our house at the edge of a smaller prairie and the oaks woods.

  2. Jason September 17, 2016 at 11:29 am #

    You make me feel more confidence in the future of my Little Bluestem. You’re also making the Heath Aster look pretty good.

    • PatHill September 17, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

      In my yard, Little Bluestem grows best next to the sidewalk. It likes the calcium.

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