• ljmarkson

Winter Sowing Native Liatris Spicata for a Mini Nature Center

My friend Rita from Botany Yards generously gave me native plant seeds to put in my mini-nature center. I wondered how to ensure success for anyone who took them. I tried to think of ways to describe how to winter sow, but I still had a full page of directions that required additional tools and tasks. I decided to go in a different direction. If winter sowing is about making mini outside greenhouses for plants, then I decided to make even smaller greenhouses that would fit in the mini nature center!

I created individual winter sown pots of liatris spicata so anyone who wants to try growing native seeds will have success.

The process was pretty basic:

  • Potting soil was added to small 3” pots and watered well.

  • A thin layer of seed starting mix was sprinkled over the potting soil.

  • Seeds were thickly sown and barely covered with more mix. I often use a thin layer of sand to cover the seeds which helps keep the seeds in place, but I was out of sand and wanted to finish the project.

  • The pots were spritzed with a water bottle before being topped with upside down clear cups.

  • I used a small soldering iron to poke a half dozen holes in the bottom of each cup. If there’s a less toxic way to do this, I can’t figure it out. Using a mask outside helps. (A glue gun without glue sticks can also be used to poke holes cups)

My seed choice was dense blazing star, gayfeather, or marsh blazing star (liatris spicata) because Rita gave me plenty. It’s native to eastern United States and prefers growing in a damp, sunny area but does well in a sunny area with average moisture. Dense blazing star blooms in summer when the Atlanta weather is hot and humid. This is a great native plant to give away because it’s a perennial that also self-seeds and will often bloom the first year from seed. It can be planted in a pollinator friendly yard, rain garden, backyard prairie patch, or even a traditional perennial garden. Depending on the growing conditions, dense blazing star grows 1-6 feet tall.

I'm not sure what variety of native liatris this is, but it fits in perfectly with native stokes aster and a native summer blooming aster in a sunny micro prairie patch in my front yard.

The flower packed wands that bloom from the top down attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Liatris means “crowded” in Greek referring to the density of the flowers on the stalk. In some areas of the country liatris is a moth host plant. Small seed-eating birds such as goldfinches appreciate the seeds on dried stalks.

Liatris brings all the pollinators to the yard including native butterlies, bees and even hummingbirds!

I made directions to add to the mini-nature center along with the pots.

Each pot has a detailed label describing the liatris. I never have to worry about them fading when I use waterproof labels.

This is the first time I’ve tried to winter sow in individual pots. I’m keeping a few of the planted pots so I can see how this project turns out. My success rate with winter sowing hovers around 90% so I’m hoping anyone who takes one of my micro-greenhouses will have the same success. We can't have too many native plants growing in yards!

The individual winter sown pots are perfectly sized to give away in my mini nature center.


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