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Aster (AS-ter)

Common Name:  Aster

Light:  - Full sun to part shade

Soil:  Average to rich, well-drained

Moisture:  Average to somewhat dry

Blooms:  Late summer and fall

Zones:  (3) 4 - 8


Aster 'October Skies'

Aster 'Wood's Pink'

Aster Description and Cultural Information

There are many, many different species in the genus Aster from all around the world. This covers only a few of the best known and most readily available asters.

Aster dumosus, shrubby aster, bushy aster. 12 - 24". These wide mounding asters have 1/2 to 3/4" daisy-like pink flowers in the fall. They are an excellent choice for lending late color to the perennial border. Dwarf varieties such as 'Snow Cushion' (white), 'Rose Serenade' (soft pink lavender), 'Jenny' (double red), and 'Violet Carpet' (deep violet-blue) grow 10 to 15" and should not require pinching or staking. The 'Wood's' selections grow 12 - 16" and are resistant to rust and mildew. All of them spread by underground stems but they are easy to lift, divide and transplant as needed to control their spread. Zones 4 - 8.

Aster lateriflorus, calico aster. 2' - 4'. This is a bushy aster with branching stems and tiny white flowers. 'Horizontalis' is shorter with burgundy-red foliage and white flowers. 'Lady in Black' has attractive purplish-black foliage with white flowers. These plants need excellent drainage in the winter. Zones 3 - 8.

Aster oblongifolius, aromatic aster. 18 - 24". Aromatic aster has finely textured, mint-scented foliage and daisy-like, pale-purple flowers in September and October. They are a low growing, bushy plant native to dry, open prairies. Because of their spreading habit and tendency to spread by seed they could be useful as a groundcover but there is also the potential to be invasive. The variety 'October Skies' is a lower growing selection with blue flowers and yellow centers. Cut them back hard after flowering to prevent the spread of variable self-sown seedlings. Zones 4 - 8.

Aster novae-angliae, New England aster. 2' - 6'. This is a tall aster with fuzzy leaved stems. It is covered with flowers from late summer into fall. Plants have quite a range of sizes and colors. Taller varieties tend to need staking. 'Harrington's Pink' (3' - 5') has pale pink flowers. 'Purple Dome' (2') is a compact plant with purple flowers. 'Mt. Everest' (3') has white flowers. 'Hella Lacy' (3' - 4') has violet-blue flowers. Zones 4 - 8.

Aster novi-belgii, New York aster. 1' - 6'. This fall aster has smooth leaves on tall stems. It also comes in a wide range of sizes and colors. 'Alert' (1') has deep crimson red flowers. 'Audrey' (1') has lilac flowers. 'Marie Ballard' (4') has double powder-blue flowers. 'Professor Kippenburg' (1') has semi-double lavender-blue flowers. Zones 4 - 8.

How to Grow:  Most asters prefer average to rich, moist but well-drained soil in full sun to light shade. If the soil is too wet plants may be susceptible to black spot or root rot, so make sure the soil dries out between watering. Powdery mildew can also be a problem in some cultivars, so make sure plants have good soil along with good air circulation. Taller plants will need staking, although shearing plants down to the ground in early June can help make them more compact and rounded.

Landscape uses:  Plant asters in the garden based on size. The taller asters do great among sturdy plants like shrub roses, ornamental grasses, Vernonia, Perovskia (Russian sage) and Sedums, or plant them along a fence to help them stand up. Use the smaller asters along the border or in rock gardens.

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