As fall chills the air, New England Asters dot the roadsides and fields with a profusion of pink, lilac, and purple clouds of color attracting butterflies.
Many people regard the New England Aster as a weed because it is visible in fall along roadsides, forest fringes, and fields. The predominantly lilac/purple flowers with their bright yellow centers are offset by waves of goldenrod growing close by. Late season butterflies like the Monarch are collecting nectar for their migration to Mexico.
Unattended in their natural environment, New England Asters can attain heights of two to four feet. The wholesale nurseries have been propagating and tending their New England Asters to produce those glorious mounds of colorful plants you see in the garden centers come fall. With a little care and maintenance you can duplicate these beauties year after year in your fall flower garden.
Whether you obtain your New England Asters from your local garden center or from the cow pasture down the street, little has been done to hybridize these plants. It is all in the care you give them. They are not endangered and naturalize beautifully. These rugged perennial plants are disease and pest resistant. They produce late season nectar for pollinators.
They can be grown from seed, obtained through specialty wildflower seed companies, sown directly in the garden. New England Aster seeds are very, very tiny and germinate at will. Maybe this year, maybe in five years. The seedling plants will take one full year of growth before flowering. Colors range from white to mauve to lilac to royal purple.
Find New England Aster plants in garden centers, nurseries, and from local growers. Heights will vary from 6″ to 18″ to 24″ depending on the size of the pots. Flowers range from 1/2″ white to 2″ on the other colors. All flowers have the characteristic bright yellow centers.
New England Asters require full sun to partial shade and good drainage. Once established in your garden bed, they are naturally drought resistant and require little additional nutrient enrichment. Plant no deeper than they are in the pot. Amend the soil with organic matter such as seaweed, compost, or peat moss. Water well to promote root development.
In the late spring or early summer, new growth appears. When this growth is 4″-6″ high, start shaping the plants with scissors or garden shears. This promotes branching and fullness. The more branching, the more flowers you will have in the fall. Continue shearing right through August. Then allow the plant to bud and bloom. After the initial round of blooming, shear off spent blossoms to get another round of flowers.
Use New England Asters in the garden as stand alone spots of color, tall back border, short front border, or to enhance and support other fall plants. The small blossom white aster pairs nicely with Chinese Lanterns and supports Zinnias. Asters will support gladiolas during the summer. Use them in bulb patches to mask the foliage. Asters also make excellent cut flowers.
Every three to five years New England Asters do well with dividing the roots to reinvigorate the plant. Amend the soil again as in planting. Asters are not invasive. There may be a new plant or two that pops up from seed. New England Asters are a good addition to the fall flower garden, window box, or patio container that require little care and minimal maintenance for years of enjoyment.
Published in: Gardening