Native Asters

It’s getting to the time of the year here in Central Kentucky where many summer perennials are dwindling. The purple coneflowers and blazing stars are nearly done flowering in my yard.

However, I know there is still some perennial color yet to look forward to, as the days get shorter and temperatures begin to drop. Those perennials are asters and goldenrods.

Aster is an important plant species for pollinators. It offers nectar and pollen when there’s nearly no other plants flowering in the fall. This means asters are an integral part of a pollinator garden. Most asters are either white or purple in color with many shades in between.

Aster in Greek means ‘star’. Aster’s star like flowers means it is in the Compositae (or Asteraceae) family.

Depending on the species, different asters will like different sun requirements. However, most of them will like medium to dry soils. To reduce seeding, remove the spent flowers in late fall before they disperse seed.

There are some species of Japanese asters (Kalimeris sp) available on the market, however they are not in the same genus as our native asters. I cannot comment on their performance as a pollinator plant. I only know I have planted one in the past, and it has not thrived in the least.

Did you know aster has also been traditionally used as an herb? Parts of the plant have been used as a sedative and decongestant. Do your research if you’d like to look more into this!

The color purple is a symbol of fall, so add some asters to your garden in celebration of the season! Aster is also the flower for the month of September, and the flower for 20th wedding anniversaries.

EARTHeim currently has plants available for sale of each species at time of posting.

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

Most of the asters (unless you get into cultivars) have purple to purple blue flowers. This aster has deep purple flowers. This is one of the taller asters, reaching nearly 5 feet. In late May, I prune mine down by 30-40% of their growth at that time. This keeps them shorter and bushier. This also means more flowers! Full Sun.

Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)

This aster also has very vibrant purple flowers. It stays shorter, around 2′ tall. The leaves have an aromatic pleasant aroma when crushed. Full Sun.

Silky Aster (Symphyotrichum sericeum)

The leaves of this aster are unique in that they are fuzzy soft and have a bluish silver tint to them. It reaches 1-2′ feet in height and also has colorful purple flowers. Full to Partial Sun.

Blue Wood/Heartleaf Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

Not many plants have bluer looking flowers, but the blue wood aster does. It is a woodland aster and likes partial shade to shade. It will get around 3′ tall. I also prune mine about 30% in May to keep them shorter and bushier. Its flowers are smaller than the other asters, but are prolific.

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