The weather is starting to change in most of the country, with cooler mornings and evenings. Fall is around the corner and bountiful mums are on display at all the nurseries. Those big, colorful mounds of mums might be harbingers of autumn, but they’re not the only fall flower out there.  Asters are a great, low maintenance choice for fall color and can be a wonderful addition to your perennial garden.

Asters are available in shades of pink, blue, purple, and white in a plethora of varieties. They are also the last blooming plant to offer late season pollen to bees and butterflies.  Plant some and you’ll have the double pleasure of extended color in your garden and lots of wildlife to watch.

There are many varieties of asters, and they range from one to six feet tall and one to four feet wide. Most asters prefer full sun, but a few varieties can survive in partial shade, though with fewer blooms. Asters prefer well drained, loamy soil. Too much water and they will get root rot. Early Fall is a great time to plant asters, but anytime during the growing season will work.  The other great thing about asters is that you can propagate your favorite one through root cuttings, saving seeds to self-sow, or dividing your existing plants (Springtime is the best time to do this).

To care for Asters, you should apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Pinch young shoots back to encourage bushiness. Keep them well-watered, especially if rainfall is lacking.  You may have to stake tall varieties to keep them upright. After the first killing frost, cut stems back to an inch or two above soil line. Divide plants every three years as new growth begins in the spring, lifting plants and dividing them into clumps containing three to five shoots.

Some popular varieties of asters:

White wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata)

  •  Smallish white flowers with yellow centers bloom from early August to early November, and have  dark burgundy/black, wiry stems.
  • This aster has a mounded, bushy habit.  Grows 1- 2 feet tall and wide.
  • Zones 4-8
  • One of the few asters that grow well in shady gardens, though plants will flower more profusely with morning sun.

 “Lady in Black” Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum)

  • Purple foliage all summer.  The central disk flowers bloom yellow but change to a purplish pink.
  • Lady in Black grows in a compact, bush shape. Grows 2- 3 feet tall and wide.
  • Zones 4-8
  • Likes full sun the best, and will bloom prolifically.

 “Snow Flurry “Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides )

  • White flowers that cover the plant in September and October.
  • Snow Flurry grows very low and wide, and thus makes an excellent ground cover. Grows 6-8 inches tall and 1-3 feet wide.
  • Zones 5-8
  • Full Sun.
  • Notably disease free and can tolerate dry conditions. This beauty will cascade as well, so looks great in rock gardens.

 “Jindai” Dwarf Tatarian Aster (Aster tataricus)

  • Small lavender flowers with a bright yellow center.
  • Jindai Aster is one of the tallest of the asters and grows up to 6 ft. tall on very strong, self-supporting stems.
  • Zones 3-9
  • Full Sun .
  • Jindai will thrive for a long growing season from Spring to November though the blooming season runs from late Summer to frost with full sun, lots of water, and rich soil.

 “Andenken an Alma Potschke” New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

  • Rose Pink flowers with a bright yellow center.
  • This Aster grows 3-6 ft. high with a robust, upright habit.
  • Zones 4-8
  • Full Sun
  • Alma Potschke Aster blooms from June to October. This aster tolerates wetter soil than most, but is susceptible to Powdery Mildew and Aster wilt. It does have sturdy stems, but it may still need to be staked.