I love the way an aster plant looks when it’s loaded down with butterflies, particularly Monarchs, hungrily slurping nectar from the generous bloom of this late-season magesty.
These beautiful plants are tougher than they look: I often rely on asters for problem soils and/or low-maintenance areas, because there is an aster for nearly every kind of flooding, salt tolerance, drought, wind, clay, or sand situation!
But there we also have good information on asters’ performance in regular garden soils, thanks to a study conducted a few years ago and available on the ‘net. In 2006, Mt Cuba Center published the results of a 3-year study of some 56 commercially available aster species. (LINK HERE)
The shorter asters are useful in the low-maintenance garden because they cover ground, prevent weeds, and need no staking or pinching. They also do a marvelous job of distracting attention away from areas of the garden that bloomed earlier in the season but need to rest and set seed now.
Here are four, short-stature asters for different gardening situations. All were evaluated in the Mt Cuba Center aster trials and made the list of top performing asters.
DRY SHADE: Eurybia divaricatus ‘Raiche,’ White Wood Aster ‘Raiche’. While they can be a bit sprawling, their accommodation to dry shade and the charming sparkle these white blooms lend make this a good choice. 18-24” tall.
SANDY SOIL: Ionactis linariifolius, Stiff Aster. 15” high, blooms light violet from early Sept to early Oct.
CLAY SOIL: Symphyotrichum oblongifolius ‘October skies’, Aromatic Aster ‘October skies’. 24” tall, Violet-blue bloom, late Sept to late Oct.
OCCASIONAL FLOODING: Symphyotrichum novi-belgii ‘Wood’s Purple, ‘Wood’s Purple’ New York Aster. 14” tall, blooms mid-late Sept.