Plant type: Late-blooming herbaceous perennial
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9
Valued for its daisy-like blooms in late summer to fall. Delicate petals burst out like rays from yellow eyes. Bloom color ranges from white to various shades of pink, red, purple and blue. Slightly stiff pubescent leaves are lanceolate (or narrow-leaved) to broadly linear. Plant size ranges from six to 60 inches tall and as wide, depending on species.
How to use it: In masses, as a specimen plant or in containers. Use in a mixed perennial border or naturalize. Fresh or dried cutflower.
Culture: Prefers a moist, well-drained site; some species tolerate a dry site. Many species are sensitive to wet soils. Plant in (ideal) full sun to partial shade. Benefits by being cut back in early spring and again in mid-summer (before July) to encourage branching and reblooming. Taller cultivars may require staking. Primarily propagated through division and stem cuttings, sometimes seed. May be susceptible to powdery mildew or root rot, especially in sub-tropical regions.
Special notes: Valued for its colorful, late summer and fall blooms. Attracts wildlife, including birds, bees and butterflies. Deer resistant.
Selected Cultivars and Species
Michaelmas daisy or New York aster (Aster novi-belgii). Native wildflower known for its continuous late summer-fall blooms and durability in the garden. Reaches one to five feet tall and one to four feet wide, depending on cultivar. Bloom colors include pink and purple. Prefers full sun and a well-drained soil. May need to be staked, especially when grown in the shade. May require frequent division which can be done in early spring or fall. Drought tolerant. Cutflower.
New England aster (Aster novae-angliae). Native wildflower that blooms in fall. Has fine-petaled, purple flowers with yellow eyes. Prefers partial to full sun and a moist, well-drained soil. Tolerates dry or wet soils. Reaches three to five feet tall and two to three feet wide, depending on cultivar. May need to be staked, especially when grown in the shade. May be grown from seed. Can grow in a prairie community. Great cutflower. Notable cultivar: 'Purple Dome' was named by Dr. Richard Lighty at Mt. Cuba Center, Greenville, DE. It has purple blooms and is 18" tall and 36" wide.
Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus). Native late-blooming wildflower. Lavender blooms with yellow eyes. Does best in full sun. Reaches seven feet tall. It will grow taller if planted in partial shade. May need to be staked. Vigorous grower; may require division.
White wood aster (Aster divaricatus). Native wildflower. Has delicate white blooms with yellow eyes in late summer and fall. Plants are one to two feet tall. Full sun but may do best in a partially shaded location. Benefits by being cut back in mid-summer (before mid-July) to control "weedy" growth habit. Drought tolerant.
Climbing Carolina aster (Aster carolinianus. Syn. Ampelaster carolinianus). Fragrant native wildflower. Has light pink to lavender blooms with yellow centers in the fall. Prefers a moist site. Cut back in spring to rejuvenate and control growth. Not creeping but can be trained to climb over a wall or trellis. Grows 10 to 15 feet tall and three to four feet wide. Note: Not as cold hardy as the others--USDA Zones (6)7 to 9.