When the other plants in your garden have turned brown and droopy and even the chrysanthemums are looking tatty, Asters (Aster) continue to star in the late fall garden. In fact, the name “Aster” is a derivative of the Greek word for “star.” Available from your local garden center in brilliant hues of deep fuchsia, bright white, sky blue, glowing lavender and royal purple, asters take the final bow before winter brings down its snowy curtain and the garden show is over for the year.
Unlike most garden plants, asters can tolerate a fair bit of cold weather and, if covered, will continue blooming robustly through the first mild frosts. Eventually, they do succumb to Old Man Winter; but it takes some seriously cold temperatures to force these bright fall stars to flee the garden stage.
Asters attract bees and butterflies, providing nectar when other food sources start to fade in the fall. Asters also serve as host for the larvae of the lovely orange and black winged pearl crescent butterfly. Some asters are native to the Midwest. Miniature copies of the 2- to 3-foot tall asters commonly sold at garden centers, native asters grow in low-lying clumps covered with thumb nail-sized daisy-like blossoms.
An old-fashioned favorite, asters have been perennial garden favorites since Queen Victoria’s era. Creating a delicate fringe around bright yellow centers, brightly-colored, daisy-like petals make fall asters a charming addition to any garden. Asters grow best in fertile, humus-rich soil. These cheerful flowers thrive in full sun and require 6 or more hours of sun daily. Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly. Flower clumps can be split every two to three years if they overwhelm the space allotted. Protect from heavy frost by covering lightly with a sheet. Removing spent blooms as they fade will prolong the flowering period.