Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Best Perennial Asters (page 2 of 3)

by Lynn Ocone

Other Choice Asters

White wood aster (A. divaricatus) is a native of eastern North American forests. Unlike most asters, it blooms well in dry shade. It's especially valuable in naturalistic woodland gardens, where it brightens dark corners with sprawling clouds of one-inch white daisies in September and October. The plants reach two to three feet. Their shiny, deep purple stems contrast beautifully with the flowers. Zones 3 to 9.

Heath aster (A. ericoides) is native in the eastern United States, from Maine to Georgia, and west to Minnesota, South Dakota and New Mexico. Tiny flowers in white, pink or lavender bloom in great profusion, smothering dense, bushy plants to three feet. Flowers sprays are particularly good for cutting. The plants tolerate some drought, though in dry climates they need supplemental water. Plant in a sunny spot. Zones 4 to 9.

'Blue Star' is a soft-textured plant with a myriad of starry bluish daisies with yellow centers.

'Esther' is one of the pink forms with pastel, orchid pink flowers.

'Monte Casino' (also sold as A. pringeli 'Monte Casino') is the popular white florist aster. The plants reach four feet tall and spread three feet. Each stem produces long fountains of tiny, solitary flowers. In mild-winter climates, such as zone 10 in southern California, plants go through two full bloom cycles: the first in spring and the second in fall. Cut back after the first bloom to maintain vigor. More tender than others of this group, 'Monte Casino' grows in zones 6 to 10.

Aster frikartii is a bushy, multistemmed aster with fuzzy dark gray-green leaves. Native to the Himalayas, it reaches 2 1/2 to three feet high and produces abundant two- to 2 1/2-inch lavender-blue, gold-centered daisies. This aster generally blooms from summer into fall. In the mild-winter western U.S., it blooms practically year-round if spent flowers are removed. Cut stems are useful in flower arrangements. The plants need sun and very well-drained soil.

This plant received mixed reviews from several of my consultants. Often recommended for zones 5 to 10, it is most successful in zones 7 and above. In zones 5 and 6, provide a winter cover of evergreen boughs. Only gardeners in the coastal West report consistently good results with this plant, and even there it is prone to whiteflies. But when it is good, it is really good, cloaking itself in a blanket of lavender. 'Monch' and 'Wonder of Staffa' are selections with a slightly deeper lavender color.

Aster laevis looks different than its relatives described here. Native to both the eastern and western U.S., it has shiny green leaves that grow in a clump something like a dandelion. Dark maroon stems reach three feet or higher and are cloaked with one-inch lavender-blue flowers in fall. This aster is mildew resistant and easy to grow given well-drained soil and full sun. 'Bluebird', a variety just introduced this year, is touted as being free from mildew and other foliage diseases. Zones 2 to 8.

Aster oblongifolius angustatus 'Raydon's Favorite' displays a profusion of blue-purple blossoms in September and October. Plants are three feet high and two feet wide, and the leaves have a pleasant minty fragrance when crushed. Zones 5 to 9.

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