1196 Symphyotrichum novae-angliaeCommon Names: New England aster Family: Asteraceae (aster/daisy Family)
New England aster (formerly in the genus, Aster) is a North American native wildflower that has become a very popular garden perennial. Branching from a thick and hairy, almost woody, stem, New England aster can get up to 5 ft (150 cm) tall, forming a clump that spreads up to 2 ft (60 cm) across. The plant is covered with hairy leaves that lack petioles and instead clasp around the branches and main stem. The leaves are lance shaped and up to 5 in (12 cm) long. Numerous daisy-like flowerheads, around 2 in (5 cm) across, are borne in terminal clusters up to 10 in (25 cm) across. The rays are usually some shade of violet or purple and the disc florets yellow. This is a large, stout and rather coarse plant, but spectacular when in bloom. Distinguish New England aster from other similar daisy-like plants by its large size, its clasping leaves and its glandular (sticky) peduncle (flower stalk) and involucre (the whorls of tiny leaf-like bracts at the base of the flowerhead.
More than 50 selections have been named including some dwarf varieties, some with double or semi-double flowerheads, and some with pink, ruby red, salmon, blue, dark purple or pure white ray florets. The cultivars have become so popular that the original, wild species is rarely found in garden centers and nurseries. But, you can gather your own seeds from wild asters growing along roadsides and old fields.
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae occurs naturally in North America east of the Rocky Mountains, across Canada and south to GA and NM. It does not get as far south as FL, LA or TX. It usually is found where the soil is moist. This popular garden flower has escaped cultivation and become established west of the Rockies, in parts of Europe and in other areas outside its native range, especially along roadsides and on disturbed ground.
New England asters can get pretty tall and usually need staking. You can cut them back up to half their height in late spring before flower buds have appeared. This will encourage bushiness and reduce the ultimate height. To maintain vigor, divide the root stock every 2-3 years. Most asters will gradually deteriorate if not divided. Try to maintain good air circulation around the plants to prevent powdery mildew. Light: Grow this garden beauty in full sun to partial shade. The more sun the better. Moisture: New England aster likes a fertile, moist but not soggy soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Seeds can be sown in spring or autumn. Cultivars are best propagated by division of the short, thick rhizomes. Under good growing conditions, New England aster will self-seed. Propagation:
New England asters and their cultivars are garden favorites and at home in herbaceous borders, flower beds, cutting gardens and wildflower gardens. Position three together to create a strikingly bold clump. Cut flowers last for a week or more. These are late-summer and autumn bloomers and very popular with the butterflies that seem to materialize that time of year.
The genus Aster, formerly with some 600 species, has (thankfully?) been subdivided into a several genera. Botanists now restrict the genus name Aster to around 180 species found mainly in Europe and Asia. Of the newly recognized genera, one occurs in China and about eleven are mostly in the New World. The genus Symphyotrichum includes around 90 species, most native to North America but with a handful found in the West Indies and Central America, and one in Europe. They’re all asters to me (and to many horticulturists and nurserymen as well)!
Some people with sensitive skin may develop a rash on the arms and hands from handling the hairy-stemmed New England asters.
Steve Christman 9/29/13