New England aster ranks near the top in pollinator diversity and brings a cheery splash of purple to autumn gardens, August-October. The daisy-like purple flowers signal that pollen and nectar are available to a huge variety of butterflies, moths, bees and flies. A stout, upright plant, it does best planted with other tall plants for support. Pairs nicely with goldenrods, another late-season bloomer.
Control height and increase flowering by pinching off new growth or cutting back the plant by one-third in early summer.
New England aster grows in a wide array of soil and moisture conditions and can be found along streams, in prairies, in open wooded areas, and in disturbed sites.
Usually 3-4’ tall by 2-3’ wide, but will grow to 6 feet in ideal conditions. Spreads slowly by seeds and rhizomes.
Thrives in sun to part sun.
Prefers medium to moist soil. May develop aster wilt in poorly drained clay. Tolerates drought once established.
A central disk of yellow florets is encircled by numerous colorful petals, or ray flowers, each of which produces a single seed.
4” lance-shaped leaves densely cover a fuzzy stem. Provide good air circulation to avoid powdery mildew.
New England aster is an extremely important source of late-season pollen and nectar for honeybees and native bees stocking up on food for the winter. Monarchs also rely heavily on asters (and goldenrods) to prepare for migration. Additional visitors include dozens of moth species, bumble bees, mining bees, leaf cutter bees, flower flies, bee flies, and soldier beetles. Serves as a host plant for 112 species of lepidoptera in central Ohio, including the pearl crescent, gorgone and silvery checkerspot butterflies, and the blackberry looper moth (pictured here in that order). Seedheads in fall and winter attract goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches and towhees.
Deer may browse on asters, but not as a primary food source. New growth will appear on browsing points, and the plants will be bushier and more sturdy as a result. Songbirds and turkeys consume the seeds later in the season.
Medicinal and Edible Uses:
Tea made from the leaves, flowers and roots have been used medicinally for various ailments, including headaches, venereal disease and constipation.
Native Americans harvested wild aster for use in soups, and young leaves were cooked lightly and used as greens. The flowers make a beautiful garnish, or addition to salads, and can be made into tea.
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