Simply The Best Natives-Aster


Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here,
But once I knew each field, each flower, each stick…  ~Matthew Arnold



With the snow falling and the temperatures barely reaching 35, I am already reminiscing about my garden this fall, and looking forward to spring flowers.  And one of the flowers I miss are my asters.  OK, yes, they are no longer called asters.  Instead it is now proper to call them Symphyotrichum.  Really?!  I don’t want to write this each time I refer to these flowers, DSCN5065and pronouncing it will be an adventure, so I am still calling them asters.

With so many asters, which is my favorite?  New England Aster definitely!  Called Symphyotrichum novae-angliae and sometimes referred to as Michaelmas Daisy these asters bring me so much delight.  And they are part of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).

What’s not to love about these plants.  First they have dozens of gorgeous purple, pink or even white flowers on one plant.  And while the flowers have no scent, the leaves are spicy scented when crushed.

As I profile this wonderful native plant, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme.


And I am also joining forces with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to purchase native plants like this one for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.




Growing Conditions

New England asters grow in sun to part shade in a wide variety of soil types; from average, well-drained soil to moist, rich DSCN4983soils, even clay.  The most important thing is they need good air circulation to reduce powdery mildew.  If the soil dries out or the weather is exceedingly hot, the lower leaves may turn brown and die before it flowers.  But no need to worry.

These zone 4 to 8 plants will grow from 3 to 6 feet tall needing a bit of staking or plants in front of them for support.  Pinching back the stems several times before mid-July will help keep the plant’s height to 3 feet and little need for staking. 

Asters grow easily from seed and may self-seed in the right growing conditions. If you cut plants to the ground after flowering, you can prevent them from self-seeding or spreading aggressively.  I have never seen my asters growing aggressively.

To propagate New England asters, they need to be seeded outside in fall.  You can also propagate by taking cuttings or divisions in late spring.  Dividing these plants every several years can help the plant grow more vigorously.




Benefits to Wildlife 

New England asters are a wildlife magnet in my garden especially for butterflies.  They are the larval host plant for Pearl DSCN4880Crescent and Checkerspot butterflies, and a prime nectar source for migrating monarchs in the fall.

Of course bees and other pollinators love this flower and swarm all over it.

The flowers are visited primarily by bumblebees, honeybees, Miner bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, bee flies, and skippers. 

The seeds and leaves of this plant are sometimes eaten by Wild Turkey, and the leaves can be browsed by deer and rabbits although I have not noticed this in my garden.  Of course deer could be the main reason why many are missing in my meadow. 




Where Are They Found

DSCN5048New England asters are native to most of Eastern North America except the far north of Canada as well as some of the southern United States appearing naturally in open fields and along roadsides.  I love seeing the purple flowers fill the roadsides around here in fall.  It can also be found in moist open woods, meadows, prairies and along stream banks.

They were introduced to Europe in 1710 and have since naturalized along roadsides.



These asters are wonderful in any garden especially a native plant, cottage, butterfly or wildlife garden.  

They will naturalize in meadows and rain gardens.




Folklore and Tales  

Native American Tribes used this aster to heal such ailments as pain, fever, skin rashes, earache and stomach issues.

Asters were also used as talismans for love.DSCN4323

The name aster comes from the Latin and Greek words for star.  

It was used to drive away snakes in ancient Greece.  And in Germany and France asters were burned to keep away evil spirits.

Shakers used the plant to help clear skin complexions and as an antidote for snake bites.  

In the Language of Flowers, aster symbolizes patiencelove of variety, elegance and daintiness.








 Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.  ~John Ruskin





Do you have asters growing in your garden?  Do you have a favorite variety?




Simply The Best 2014:


October-Maidenhair Fern

September-St. John’s Wort

August-Golden Alexanders

July-Wild Geranium

June-Ostrich Fern



March-Northern Sea Oats

February-Common Boneset

January-Pearly Everlasting




Next up on the blog:  

Saturday brings the next Seasonal Celebrations post.  Monday I will have another Garden Journal report as I look over November’s garden.  And next Wednesday brings another Wildlife story.

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her new blog just for Nature Notes.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday. 



33 Replies to “Simply The Best Natives-Aster”

  1. I agree, Asters are a wonderful autumn flower, extending the season into October and sometimes into November. We have a few different varieties here, providing nectar and pollen for late bees and butterflies. I have a very ordinary aster in the front border, but the bees are drawn to it and the whole plant is heaving and buzzing. This one is seeding along the border which is ok at the moment, but soon I will need to be firm with it!

    1. I had about 30 volunteers of a white aster in one garden this year Pauline. We had to remove loads of it as it was taking over…but there were loads more in the meadow. I agree the bees do seem to buzz crazily around asters!

  2. I love asters too Donna, and couldn’t pick a favourite as they are all lovely. I still have a few tatty wild aster flowers on the edge of our old compost heap, I think the are actually Erigeron, but in effect the same family. Great photos too!

  3. I always enjoy reading the about the folklore and history of the plants you profile, Donna. My New England Asters must be very happy where they’re planted, which isn’t particularly good soil, because they have spread with abandon. I must confess I don’t do anything to them, other than cut them back in June every year, which really helps to keep them from flopping over. I’ve thought of thinning them out, because they really are taking over, but when I see them covered in butterflies and bees every fall I change my mind. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, Donna!

    1. I waited until the pollinators were gone before I thinned a few, moved some and seeded more in the meadow. I am so happy to know you enjoy these posts Rose!

  4. Checkerspot..I have to go look that up. I didn’t know they were a larval host for anything, but I have planted more seed. I didn’t know you could keep them from getting that tall. I will have to look up what “pinch back” means too… sigh…LOL… Is there a place on them to cut back to keep them shorter then?….Michelle.. Happy Thanksgiving..hug…

    1. I am glad you found so much useful info in the post, Michelle…and as they grow you can cut the stems back so many inches….I let them get tall as they seem to be fine and not flop. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  5. I always enjoy Asters in fall, but don’t have any of my own. Every autumn, I wonder why, but then I realize I don’t have enough space – or sun for that matter. But, they are on the list for our next home! They are hard to beat this time of year! Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. I love the wild asters. We’re so lucky to have them growing wild in our area. When I posted a photo of one of them on one of my blog posts a friend of mine couldn’t believe that they were wild because they were so beautiful.
    I tried a hot pink variety a few years ago, but I was disappointed it didn’t make it.

  7. I have to agree- aster is much easier to say and spell. Lovely photos. I love it that there are so many varieties of asters for so many different regions.

  8. I love asters too. There’s something about their purple color that is really eye-catching and they are great for insects late in the year. I especially like your first picture — gorgeous.

    I just added NE aster to my garden this year and am looking forward to seeing how it performs. It’s a beautiful aster. I’ve had white wood aster, blue wood aster, aromatic aster and willowleaf aster for several years.

  9. Such beautiful photos Donna! I just added this aster to my garden. I bought it for the porch (instead of a throw away mum) for Autumn. I planted it in a hurry between snow and rain in the only spot I could find somewhat open, at the time. I am surprised to learn it can grow so tall! And excited to learn it’s a host plant. I think the spot where I planted it should be suitable. I’ll have to watch for mildew, though – what am I saying? We get so much wind it should be fine. Yet another excellent plant choice!

  10. I found a gorgeous stand of New England asters blooming in a vacant lot not far from my house this fall, and this gives me hope that they might do well in my garden. I love them, and I hope to add them to the garden next year.

    1. I adore these asters in the fields and meadows all fall too Jean! Indeed they will be great in your garden and add some lovely purple and perhaps a surprise pink too as they sometimes do!

Comments are closed.