Image by Frank Mayfield
By Amy Grant
Looking for a burst of color for your fall garden? The New England aster plant (Aster novi-angliae) is an easy to care for perennial, blooming from August through October. Most North American gardeners can learn how to grow New England aster. Once established in the garden, New England aster care is extremely easy. Keep reading for more information on growing New England asters.
New England Aster Flowers
A wildflower member of the Asteraceae family and native to the eastern and central United States, New England aster flowers are generally found in meadows and other moist, well draining soils. The New England aster plant has medium green to gray-green foliage with an odor somewhat reminiscent of turpentine, when crushed.
Don’t let the unpleasant aroma put you off, however. This plant provides stunning rose to lilac or deep purple blooms in mass plantings within native species gardens, low-lying areas, along roadsides and around tree lines. The brilliant blooms make great cut flowers, and are longer lasting in water than its cousin the New York aster (A. novi belgi). The floral display provides color long into the waning days of summer.
Other varieties of New England aster flowers are available for the home garden as well and will provide additional color. These include:
- ‘Alma Potschke’ produces 3 ½ foot tall plants with vibrant pink blooms.
- ‘Barr’s Pink’ blooms are rose-colored, semi-double flowers on a 3 ½ foot tall plant.
- ‘Harrington’s Pink’ lights the garden with 4 foot tall pink blossoms.
- ‘Hella Lacy’ is a 3 to 4 foot tall plant with dark purple blooms.
- ‘Honeysong Pink’ has yellow centered pink flowers on 3 ½ foot tall plants.
- ‘September Beauty’ blooms a deep red on 3 ½ foot tall plants.
- ‘September Ruby’ flowers are rosy-red atop 3 to 4 foot tall plants.
How to Grow New England Asters
Growing New England asters, as with other aster plants, is easy. This particular aster variety prefers full to partial sun in hardiness zones 4-8.
Propagate by seed or division when growing New England asters. Although a bit more difficult to grow from seed, it is well worth the effort. Surface sow in the spring in an area of rich, moist soil as these plants tend to wilt in poorly drained clay. The New England aster will germinate in 21-45 days at a soil temperature of 65-75 degrees F.
These late summer through early fall bloomers spread 2-4 feet with a height of 1-6 feet. When planting make sure to provide good air circulation, keeping in mind the large spreading area.
New England Aster Care
New England aster care is moderate. Just divide in fall and fertilize and cut back in spring. These daisy-like flowering plants should be divided every 2-3 years in late fall to promote vigorous specimens.
The taller varieties, such as the 4’ tall bluish-purple ‘Treasurer’ or the nearly 5 foot tall purple-red ’Lyle End Beauty,’ usually require staking. Pinch plants early in the season to get a lower growing and bushier plant or choose a dwarf variety like ‘Red Star’ (1-1 ½ feet with deep rosy flowers) or the aptly named ‘Purple Dome.’
New England aster flowers may also self seed in optimal conditions. Be aware of this self-sowing when growing New England asters. To avoid self-seeding in the garden, cut back after blooming.
This non-invasive beauty is fairly disease and insect resistant; however, it may be prone to powdery mildew.
Keep soil moist as mentioned above and prepare to enjoy this hardy and bountiful perennial for years to come.