Fall Gardens Reach for New Heights With Tatarian Asters
Most folks consider summer the most colorful season in the garden, but autumn isn’t shy either about putting on a show. That’s not just with fall foliage but with bloom colors that seem to grow more intense the shorter the days grow and the softer the sunlight gets.
Case in point: Asters, that old-fashioned perennial that often plays second fiddle to the ever-popular chrysanthemum. One species in particular, the Tatarian aster, should become a part of everyone’s fall garden. Aster tataricus is a tall (up to 8 feet!) upright perennial that, ironically, never requires staking. In spring, the plant emerges with large coarse leaves and stems, which by September produce elongated clusters of 1-inch wide lavender florets with yellow centers. One of the latest-blooming asters, it continues to flower into November or until the first frost, serving as a magnet for butterflies for weeks on end.
Because of its height, this aster makes the perfect back-of-the-border plant. Yet because it yields great cut flowers, it can be used wherever you can squeeze it in, preferring well-drained soil. Just be sure to give this beauty full sun and plenty of space. An aggressive spreader, this perennial will need to be divided every two or three years. Asters are pretty care-free, drought-tolerant plants. If you want a less gangly plant, cut it back by half in mid-summer to encourage bushiness.
If space—or in Tatarian aster’s case, height—is an issue, another variety to consider is the Tatarian daisy aster, Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’. It, too, flowers later than most asters, but this variety reaches only 4 to 5 feet tall.