Lisianthus – Looks Like a Rose, Lasts Longer
Updated: Sep 4
You’ve probably never heard of this flower, but if you go to a summer wedding, chances are you’ll see it in the bride’s bouquet. Lissies – as they’re called in the business - are beautiful but tough, delicate in appearance but rugged to work with. A bouquet of lissies will look like roses but will last twice as long.
Lisianthus is a prairie flower, native to North America; it's been bred and selected by cut flower growers to give varieties suitable for floral work. The only downside to lisianthus is that the seeds are hard to get started. Maybe that’s because in its natural life cycle it grows roots but not leaves during the winter, grows slowly in spring, then bursts into flower in the long hot days of summer. A flower farmer can start lisianthus seeds in the greenhouse in winter or early spring, but they take weeks to germinate and may still be tiny, tiny plants after months of growth. That’s why many flower farmers buy plugs – small plants grown by specialists in trays of at 100 or more then shipped when ready to plant outdoors.
Don decided to grow three varieties of lisianthus plugs this year, in addition to three varieties he grew from seed. There’s no difference in the final flower product, but the plugs are easier and save him from the tedious routine of watching over lissie seed trays.
The plants survived all through our rainy cold spring, although they still looked discouragingly small in June. But then – they suddenly took off and by mid-August were up to our eyeballs in gorgeous, fluffy blooms. There were a few plants that were the wrong color - purple - but these were fun to see because that's the color of the native American plant. They may have been a mistake at the grower's or a seed that reverted.
Don will grow these again next year, so if you want a bouquet, look for them on our website in summer. If you’re interested in buying a few plants from us, contact us by text or by the comment section below. We can reserve a few for home gardeners.
Here’s what we learned from our first year growing lissies:
The seedlings can be planted very close together – 3” between centers.
They don’t need much babying once planted.
The bloom comes on fast!
You don’t need to pinch out the center or side blooms that come on early. Leaving them in place doesn’t seem to inhibit the other blooms, so it’s unnecessary work.
We still have some questions, too, mainly about winter care. We’ll find out if the plants we have this year can be overwintered. We’ve read that lissies can stand a lot of cold, and we had a couple of plants from last year that flowered in their second year, so fingers crossed. Don ordered a new set of plugs to arrive in December, and he plans to plant them in the field. He could transplant some of them into larger trays and grow them longer in the greenhouse, but that’s lots more work, so maybe he’ll add frost cloth and hope for the best.
If you’ve grown lisianthus on a large scale, we’d like to hear your comments!