Think of stars, fallen from the sky to land on green leaves. In April to June, flowers with five pointed petals, in shades of white to a pale sky-blue, appear in clusters on one-foot plants. The subtle hues give this perennial a peaceful presence in the garden.
Although it was a PlantSelect® winner back in 2011, few people have heard of Colorado Desert Blue Star, Amsonia jonesii. I found several plants at the Denver Botanic Garden; it was love at first sight. I admit to a predilection for blue flowers, and while these aren’t the intense blue of, say, delphiniums, they are definitely blue and not purple.
Moreover, these Colorado natives thrive in our often inhospitable conditions. While not completely xeric, they are drought tolerant, and they’re happy in soils ranging from clay to sandy loam. Just be sure to plant them where they’ll receive full sun. After that, they require little fussing. Simply cut the plant to the ground before it re-spouts in the spring, and you’re done for the year. The plants are long-lived and well-behaved.
As if that isn’t enough, Amsonia is both deer resistant (remember, nothing is deer proof) and it attracts pollinators.
I’d love to add this superstar to my garden. My enthusiastic use of neon-bright colors could use some toning down, and Amsonia would make the perfect foil. I only hesitate for one reason—while the plants are said to be hardy down to zone 4, the PlantSelect® website only recommends this species up to 6,200 feet elevation, and we live considerably higher than that. Still, Blue Star has so many fine qualities, I may give it a try anyway.
There are several other species of Amsonia in cultivation. Most come from parts of the U.S. with considerably more rainfall. This is Amsonia tabernaemontana. It’s native to the central U.S., where it is known as Texas Star or Eastern Blue Star. The plants are twice as large, reaching 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Not surprisingly, this species requires regular watering. Hardiness ranges from zone 3 to 9.