October: New England Aster

Today's plant can grow both as a tame garden specimen or a towering queen in a prairie planting. The New England Aster is perfect for pushing your landscape's bloom season later into the fall, whether you want a tidy, smaller variety or the wild uncultivated variety.

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org, by user Haeferl

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org, by user Haeferl

New England Aster is a full sun perennial that grows naturally in prairies in 42 of the 50 states as well as the southern provinces of Canada. It adapts well to a wide variety of soils, and will be happy just about anywhere but a swamp or a forest. For gardeners who want a more refined look than the lanky 5' native variety, there are dwarf options that are much more at home in the maintained landscape. Asters bloom from September into October, which makes them an excellent choice for late season color. This also makes them a great late-season nectar and pollen source for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The key to keeping a healthy pollinator population is having flowers they use available all season long, and asters are an excellent way to help.

Photo by Maria Gulley

Photo by Maria Gulley

Common Name: New England Aster

Scientific Name: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (formerly Aster novae-angliae)

Notable Varieties: 'Purple Dome', 'Purple Pixie'

Light: full sun

Size: straight species can grow 3-5' tall and 3-4' wide; cultivated garden varieties range from 1-3' tall and wide

Soil: tolerates clay soil; can get rust fungus in consistently wet conditions

Blooms: vibrant purple or pink flowers

Other Notes: as a native plant, asters are beneficial to our ecosystems; late summer flowers extend the feeding season for pollinators

See other plants of the month.

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