Autumn flowers… Some flowers are synonymous with autumn, and Asters definitely fall into this category, ensuring a burst of color to the landscape before winter’s dormancy sets in. The name “aster” comes from the Ancient Greek word for “star,” referring to the plant’s star-shaped flowers.
Asters are a perennial flowering plant from the family Asteraceae. With nearly 180 species, you can find Asters in any number of colors, and in sizes ranging from 8 inches to 8 feet in height. Asters are a favorite of bees and butterflies, providing these important pollinators with a much-needed, late season supply of nectar. While not a true favorite of deer, rabbits do find the starry-shaped blooms particularly tasty.
Asters are winter-hardy, providing they are planted in the right site – that means soil that is well-drained and loamy, so their roots won’t rot from moisture in poorly drained soil. Generally, Asters prefer climates with cool, moist summers – especially cool evening temperatures. In warmer climates, take care to plant Asters in areas shielded from hot midday and late afternoon sun.
The best time to plant young asters is in mid-to-late spring. Fully-grown, potted asters may be planted as soon as they become available in our area. We recommend planting native species of Asters over a non-native species whenever possible.
The most common Asters, and those native to North America, include the New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and the New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii). Here are some native (North American Asters) species we particularly like:
New England Asters (S. novae-angliae): Varieties have a range of flower colors, from magenta to deep purple. They typically grow larger than New York Asters, though some varieties are on the smaller side.
New York Asters (S. novi-belgii): There are many, many varieties of New York Asters available. Their flowers range from bright pink to bluish-purple and may be double, semi-double, or single.
Blue wood Aster (S. cordifolium): Bushy with small, blue-to-white flowers.
Heath Aster (S. ericoides): A low-growing ground cover (similar to Creeping Phlox) with small, white flowers.
Smooth Aster (S. laeve): A tall, upright aster with small, lavender flowers.
Asters need little in the way of maintenance. Care of asters may include deadheading for more blooms and occasionally includes controlling powdery mildew. This disease is most easily prevented by autumn or spring division of aster flowers, with the middle clump removed and discarded.
To over-winter Asters, cut the stems back to 6-8 inches above the ground. Leave the lower stems and leaves alone and cover the plants with 2 to 3 inches of organic matter such as mulch, dried leaves, straw, or hay. Adding this layer of insulation protects the roots from sudden changes in soil temperature (freezing or thawing) and the plants from heaving.
Contact us here at Farmside Landscape and Design for more ideas on adding brilliant fall color to your landscape!
Main image photo credit: PixaBay