New England Asters

aster-novae-angliae-new-england-aster-etnaca-2006sept01-lah-005Everyone loves daisies, so it’s no wonder that New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) are so popular. Bright purple (or pink or white) daisies with contrasting golden yellow centers adorn these shrubby perennials from August until October. Growing to four feet high and wide, the plants tend to sprawl unless staked, especially in very fertile soil or partial shade. Stems bear long, lance-shaped leaves of dull green.

As their name implies, New England asters are native to the damp thickets and meadows of the northeast. They do well in Colorado as long as they have amended soil and regular watering. Don’t keep the ground soggy, however, as that encourages infection by fungal diseases.

Plant purchased seedlings or rooted cuttings in full sun. Larger areas may be direct seeded in fall; cold winter temperatures are necessary for germination to occur. Pinch back stems early in the season to promote branching, but stop when buds begin to form in mid-summer.

aster-novae-angliae-hella-lacy-new-england-aster-dbg-19sept05-lah-024Their medium height and less-than-ideal foliage makes New England asters perfect candidates for the middle of a perennial border. Try pairing them with other late bloomers with similar watering requirements. Tall sunflowers (both annuals and perennials) make a lovely backdrop, while goldenrod contrasts in color and form. Combining purple asters with ornamental grasses in copper and russet tones (such as Little Bluestem ‘Blaze’) is especially pleasing.

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