An Autumnal Purple Beauty
Common Name: Aster, Michaelmas daisy
Botanical Name: Symphyotrichum spp., formerly Aster
Form: upright, spreading depending on variety Genus: Aster
Species: numerous species
Plant Type: herbaceous perennial
Mature Size: 10" - 6', up to 4 feet wide,
Origin: Great Britain, Europe, N. & S. America Hardiness Zone: USDA zones 4 to 8
Leaves: entire, simple, alternate, soft, green, pinnate, pointed tip, linear
Flowers: composite, yellow stamens & blue, purple, white, or pink petals, blooms from September through fall
Exposure: sun to partial shade
Soil: well-drained, soil tolerant
Propagation: root cuttings, divisions, cuttings, seeds
Uses: butterflies, bees, cut flower, perennial, mixed borders, native, woodlands
There are 2 major types of aster: New England and New York. New York aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) tend to be smaller than the New England types though some grow to 4 feet. They have thin, hairless stems compared to the New England variety (Symphyotrichum nova-angliae), which have sturdier, hairy stems and foliage.
The alpine aster, Symphyotrichum alpinus, has a mounded, upright habit about 1 foot high. Flowers are either pink, deep purple, white, violet and flower slightly earlier than other asters. Used in rock gardens, and for edging since it is short. Will self-seed as not a long-lived plant. Prefers a sandier soil than other asters.
Asters are often called Michaelmas Daisies because the flower at the same time St Michael’s Day is celebrated in England (September 29). There are many cultivars in lavender, violet, blues, and pinks. Since asters are either tall, short, erect, bushy, compact or spreading, correct selection is critical. Read those plant labels as they are wealth of information.
New cultivars include ones that bear scented flowers and all asters attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. They also make long lasting cut flowers.