New England Asters

Celebrate fall with a colorful bouquet of New England asters.

Aster novae-angliae ~Purple Dome~ (02) Habit

Aster novae-angliae ~Purple Dome~ (02) Habit

Aster novae-angliae ~Purple Dome~ (02)

Want fall color in your landscape? Plant New England asters. This wildflower is at home in nearly all 50 states, having a native range that extends from coast to coast. The native New England aster opens blossoms in shades of blue and purple. Aster flowers have a fringe of petals surrounding bright yellow centers. The color combination offers classic autumn hues that blend beautifully in any landscape.

In the wild, New England asters grow in meadows and along roadsides This aster plant prefers growing in moist soils that are well-drained. Like most asters, New England aster thrives in full sun. Although plants can survive in partial shade, they tend to have fewer flowers and grow taller. In a garden setting, New England asters growing in partial shade frequently need staking.

Without pruning, New England asters grow one to six feet tall and two to four feet wide. Pruning reduces stem height and helps form bushier clumps packed with blooms. For New England asters growing in shady spots, pruning can help curtail stem floppiness. Time pruning for early summer—tackle it by late June to July 4. Clip the top of aster stems to reduce height by one-half to one-third, depending on how much you want to shorten plants. If you prune in early June, followed by a second pruning in early July, you’ll have intensely bushy plants covered with blooms.

If you select New England aster varieties with shorter sizes, you can skip pruning altogether. ‘Purple Dome’ (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’) New England aster is a purple flowered dwarf variety that grows 18 inches tall. ‘Red Star’(Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Red Star’) opens rich rose-red blossoms on plants that reach 12 to 18 inches high.

New England asters are hardy in Zones 4 to 8. Plants in poorly draining winter soils won’t display full hardiness. Make sure soil drains well in winter to ensure asters survive in the coldest zones. Typically, New England asters need dividing every two to three years. Tackle this task in early spring, and you’ll still have flowers to enjoy in late summer and fall.

One problem to watch out for with New England asters is powdery mildew. This fungal disease attacks leaves, coating them with a white, powdery looking substance (that substance is the fungus). Spraying plants with baking soda before any signs of the disease appears can reduce occurrence of the disease. Air flow around New England asters can also help prevent the disease. Make sure plants have adequate spacing.

New England asters play a key role in nourishing wildlife. The fall flowers provide a nectar source for migrating hummingbirds and butterflies, like the monarch. All kinds of bees, including bumbles, leaf-cutting bees and honey bees, visit the blossoms for nectar. Wild turkeys occasionally eat the leaves and flowers. Rabbits and deer may browse the plants. Rabbits in particular may devour plants in early spring.

Include New England asters in a cutting garden to have great color for fall bouquets. In the language of flowers, New England aster flower meaning coincides with that of any aster: patience and love.

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