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Liatris, Gay Feather

Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

Michael S. Reid

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality


Liatris pycnostachya, L. spicata. The specific epithet pycnostachya means thick-spiked in reference to the flowers while spicata means spike. L. spicata is the taller of the two species. Native to the prairies of North America, Liatris was developed as a cut flower in Israel. The bright purple spikes provide interesting texture and line in arrangements, and can open fully if properly treated after harvest.

Quality Indices

Liatris spikes should be harvested with no more than one quarter to one third of the flowers in the spike open. They may be harvested with only the top buds showing color and will open fully if provided with an effective preservative. Liatris responds best when about one-quarter to one-third of the flowers are open. However, if preservative solution is properly used, flowers can be harvested with no color showing and subsequently opened.

Grading and Bunching

Quality Liatris flowers are of proper maturity (no more than one third of the flowers on the spike open), are free from defects and damage, and have good quality foliage. They are normally bunched in 10’s and sometimes sleeved.

Ethylene Sensitivity

Liatris flowers are not affected by exposure to ethylene.


Pulsing with a preservative containing additional sugar (10-20% sugar or 100 grams of sugar into a liter) will improve the opening of tight-cut flowers.

Storage Conditions

Store Liatris at 0-1°C (32-34°F).


Liatris are normally packed in horizontal fiberboard boxes, but may also be packed in hampers.

Special Considerations

Be careful of fungal problems such as Botrytis (especially for those grown outdoors) as well as water stress. Leaf yellowing and reduced life are common when these problems exist and are not easily controlled. Using preservative solution helps open more flowers per stem, but doesn’t make individual flowers last longer. A member of the Asteraceae (chrysanthemum or aster family), this species is also unusual in that the flowers open from the top of the stem downwards; delphinium, gladiolus, snapdragon, and most other spiked-type flowers used in the floral industry open from the bottom up.


October 2004

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The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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