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Midwest Gardening
Aster

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Aster, easy to grow late summer blooms

The hardy perennial asters are fairly long lived and easy to grow and care for.  Blooming later in summer and fall, they are a nice addition to the garden when other perennials and even the annuals are fading.  They prefer reasonably fertile soil that is moist and do not like drought, so keep them watered in dry periods.  Grown in rich soil, the plants get quite tall.  Full sun is preferred, but in hot climates afternoon sun may benefit the plant.  Most common asters, novi-belgii’,  are not hardy north of zone 5, the New England Asters are generally hardy to zone 3 or 4 and are semi-woody.  Divide every three years in spring.  Asters are excellent cut flowers.

 

Aster x novi-belgii ‘Alert’Aster 'Alert' perennial by beautifulcataya

  • Common Name: Michaelmas Daisy, New York Aster
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  12-15”
  • Spread:  15-18”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Full sun
  • Water Requirements:  Average water needs, do not over water.  Drought tolerant once established.
  • Soil Requirements:  Fertile, well drained, moist soil.  Will tolerate heavy, wet soil. Not fussy about pH.
  • Growth Habit:  Neatly mounded
  • Bloom Time: August into October.
  • Bloom Color: Deep purple red with yellow centers
  • Bloom Form:  Small daisy like flowers.
  • Foliage:  Dark green, smooth, narrow lance shapedAster novi-belgii 'Alert'.
  • Fragrance:  None noted
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Occasionally bothered by powdery mildew.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize sparingly to avoid lush foliage growth, which encourages mildew.  Once a year with a slow release fertilizer is enough.  If desired, a light application may be applied after cutting back summer growth to encourage new leaf growth.
  • Maintenance:  Divide in spring every few years to maintain plant health.  Otherwise requires little attention.
  • Other:  Attracts butterflies, deer resistant.  Somewhat tolerant of urban pollution.
  • Hardiness: Zones 3-8

‘Alert’ has double, vivid red-purple blooms with bright yellow centers.  This traffic stopper has a long bloom period, beginning in August or September and continuing through September and even into October in most regions.  Blooms are produced in densely packed clusters. ‘Alert’ is a wonderful Aster for rock gardens, perennial borders, cottage gardens, formal and entry gardens or as a specimen plant.

The low growing perennial has a neat habit, making it excellent for front of the border, in containers, and cut for fresh arrangements.  Rich soil will produce taller plants.  To produce fuller branching and more blooms, pinch the plant back only until the fourth of July, but blooming may be slightly delayed.  ‘Alert’ is a long living perennial.  Allow enough space to provide good air circulation to reduce the incidence of powdery mildew.  A very hardy perennial that has proven to be hardy in zone 3. ‘Alert’ can be expected to live about 8 years.  Dividing will produce new young plants to refresh your garden.

 

Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’Aster frikartii 'Monch' by Kenny

  • Common Name: Michaelmas Daisy, New York Aster
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  2--3 feet
  • Spread: 14-18” 
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Full sun
  • Water Requirements:  Average
  • Soil Requirements:  Moderately fertile and well drained.
  • Growth Habit:  Clump forming
  • Bloom Time: June through September, or longer.
  • Bloom Color: Lavender blue flowers with long slender petals and orange centers
  • Bloom Form:  2” flat daisy like flowers
  • Foliage:  2 1/2” oblong dark green
  • Fragrance:  None noted
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  No significant problems, somewhat resists deer.  Crown rot may be a problem in poorly drained soil, or if winter soil is very wet.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize sparingly to avoid lush foliage growth, which encourages mildew.  Once a year with a slow release fertilizer is enough.  If desired, a light application may be applied after cutting back summer growth to encourage new leaf growth.
  • Maintenance:  Cut back plants by half in late May or June if you would like to promote bushier growth.  Divide in early spring or late fall to maintain plant health.
  • Other:  Attractive to butterflies and bees.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 5-9

‘Monch’ bears masses of 2 1/2” blooms on 2-3 foot graceful stems all summer, one of the longest blooming Asters.  The lavender blue, daisy like flowers with yellow-orange centers bloom early, beginning in July and continuing through September or longer.  Blooming is most prolific in full sun with regular watering, but will do well in part shade although the plant may become a bit more open and bushy.  The plants are compact and multi stemmed with an open habit.rikartii

When planting ‘Monch’, the crown of the root should remain just at or above the soil surface after watering in.

‘Monch’ is one of the few perennial asters that is not bothered by powdery mildew.  Pinching back in summer before blooming is often recommended to control plant size, but it will also delay the bloom period.  Many growers suggest that ‘Monch’ is hardy in zone 5, but they are not reliable in zone 5 or even 6a.  They need a protected location and mulching to protect the crowns.

A. frikartii has become a popular hybrid, and several variations have been created.  ‘Monch’ is the most widely known.  All the Frickart’s asters are lovely with similar attributes.

 

Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’New England Aster novae-angliae 'Alma Potschke'

  • Common Name: New England Aster
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  4-5 feet
  • Spread:  3-4 feet
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Full sun to mostly sun
  • Water Requirements:  Average
  • Soil Requirements:  Moist well drained.  Will tolerate clay.
  • Growth Habit:  Upright and compact.
  • Bloom Time: June through September.
  • Bloom Color: Reddish pink with yellow centers
  • Bloom Form:  2” flat daisy like flowers with long narrow petals.
  • Foliage:  Dark green 4” long narrow leaves.
  • Fragrance:  None noted.
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Resists deer and rabbits.  Mildew resistant.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize sparingly to avoid lush foliage growth, which encourages mildew.  Once a year with a slow release fertilizer is enough.  If desired, a light application may be applied after cutting back summer growth to encourage new leaf growth.
  • Maintenance:  Cut back plants by half in late May or June if you would like to promote bushier growth.  Divide in early spring or late fall to maintain plant health.  May require staking in open sites.
  • Other:  Attractive to butterflies.  Seaside salt tolerant.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 3-8

‘Alma Potschke’ has very showy red pink blooms with yellow centers that cover the plant from late summer into late fall.  It is quite tolerant of wet conditions and is mildew resistant.  This perennial aster is fast growing with a compact upright habit.  Being native to Eastern and Central United States, it is hardy to zone 4.  It is reportedly hardy even in zone 3, but may need winter protection in exposes areas.  When grown in hot climates the plant may benefit from some afternoon shade.  To divide, be warned that the woody roots will require a strong and sharp space to slice through.

‘Alma Potschke’ is well suited to perennial borders, foundation planting accents and cottage gardens.  Would also be a great addition to a rain garden or wildflower garden.  With some salt tolerance it may do well in a roadside garden if road salt is not heavily used.

 

Aster novae-angliae ‘Harrington’s Pink’New England Aster novae-angliae 'Harrington's Pink'

  • Common Name: Michaelmas Daisy, New England Aster
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  3-5 feet, up to 6 feet
  • Spread:  2-3 feet
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Full sun to mostly sun
  • Water Requirements:  Average
  • Soil Requirements:  Moist well drained, will tolerate clay and somewhat wet soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Upright and bushy
  • Bloom Time: August through September, often into October.
  • Bloom Color: Bright pink with golden centers
  • Bloom Form:  Flat daisy like flowers with up to 50 long narrow petals, borne in clusters.
  • Foliage:  Gray green 4-5” long narrow hairy leaves.
  • Fragrance:  None noted.
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer and Rabbit resistant.  Resists mildew.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize sparingly to avoid lush foliage growth, which encourages mildew.  Once a year with a slow release fertilizer is enough.  If desired, a light application may be applied after cutting back summer growth to encourage new leaf growth.
  • Maintenance:  Cut back plants by half in late May or June if you would like to promote bushier growth.  Divide in early spring or late fall to maintain plant health.  May require staking.
  • Other:  Attractive to butterflies.  Seaside salt tolerant.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 3-8

Clear pink flowers are borne in clusters on this fast growing perennial aster. It is a very hardy and tough perennial, easy to grow.  It is more tolerant of wet soils than most perennial asters, and will tolerate a bit of shade.  The stalks of ‘Harrington’s Pink’ are rather woody, making division somewhat difficult.  Use a strong sharp spade.

Excellent as a cut flower, ‘Harrington’s Pink’ is at home in the back of the perennial border or in a wildflower garden.  It may also do well in a rain garden as it is more tolerant of wet soil than many asters, or in a roadside garden if road salt is not used to heavily.

 

Aster novae-angliaeI ‘Purple Dome’New England Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome' by Bill Rogers

  • Common Name: New England Aster
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  1 1/2 - 2 feet
  • Spread:  2-3 feet
  • Sun/Shade Requirements: 
  • Water Requirements:  Average, do not over water.  Established plants have some drought tolerance.
  • Soil Requirements:  Prefers a moist well drained soil, will tolerate clay and wetter soils.  Avoid sites with wet winter soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Upright bushy and spreading.  Overall creates a symmetrical rounded clump.
  • Bloom Time: August through September.
  • Bloom Color: Deep royal purple
  • Bloom Form:  1 1/2” flat daisy like flowers with long narrow petals and gold centers on erect stems.
  • Foliage:  Green narrow fuzzy leaves.
  • Fragrance:  None noted
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Nearly pest free.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize sparingly to avoid lush foliage growth, which encourages mildew.  Once a year with a slow release fertilizer is enough.  If desired, a light application may be applied after cutting back summer growth to encourage new leaf growth.
  • Maintenance:  Cut back plants by half in late May or June if you would like to promote bushier growth.  Divide in early spring or late fall to maintain plant health.
  • Other:  Drought tolerant.  Excellent mildew resistance.  Attractive to butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 4-8, may be hardy to zone 3 with winter protection.

‘’Purple Dome’ is completely covered in deep purple blooms for weeks in autumn.  It has 18” long sturdy stems that don’t need support. The arching branches become somewhat woody, requiring a strong sharp spade for dividing.

Absolutely stunning in masses when in full flower.  The cut flowers have an exceptionally long vase life.  Adds an explosion of late season color to a perennial garden or wildflower garden.  Being somewhat tolerant of wet soil, ‘Purple Dome’ should also do well in a rain garden.

 

Aster novi-belgii ‘Wood’s Blue’Aster 'Woods Blue'

  • Common Name: Blue Woods Aster
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height: 15-24”
  • Spread:  12-20”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Full Sun to mostly sun.
  • Water Requirements:  Average, do not over water.  Drought resistant once established.
  • Soil Requirements:  Average well drained soil, will tolerate clay and somewhat wet soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Compact and mounding
  • Bloom Time: August through October.
  • Bloom Color: Gentian blue with gold centers.
  • Bloom Form:  1” flat daisy like flowers with long narrow petals.
  • Foliage:  Dark green
  • Fragrance:  None noted.
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer resistant.  Excellent mildew resistance.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize sparingly to avoid lush foliage growth, which encourages mildew.  Once a year with a slow release fertilizer is enough.  If desired, a light application may be applied after cutting back summer growth to encourage new leaf growth.
  • Maintenance:  Divide in early spring or late fall to maintain plant health.
  • Other:  Attractive to butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 4-8

‘Wood’s Blue’ is a dwarf perennial aster wonderful for front of the border.  It is a prolific bloomer with flowers completely covering the plant in fall.  Cutting back or pinching is not generally necessary for this compact aster unless you prefer to control size and foliage density.  It is also a lovely addition to container gardens and rock gardens, as well as rain gardens.

Also available in the ‘Wood’s’ series are ‘Wood’s Light Blue’, ‘Wood’s Pink’ and ‘Wood’s Purple’.  Not to be confused with the native perennial common blue wood aster Aster cordifolius, the form and flower are quite different.  There are other Wood Blue/Blue Wood asters you will find listed with nurseries and mail order companies referred to as Aster divaricatus as well as Aster dumosus.  The plant characteristics are somewhat similar except that they are perhaps a smaller dwarf, but there clearly is some confusion out there.

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