The New England Aster is an attractive addition to any pollinator or natural garden. It is easily recognised by its huge rose-purple blooms, which grow abundantly in sunny locations. New England Aster is one of the most stunning asters in the late season, with masses of purple daisy-like petals with orange-yellow cores. It has hairy stems and leaves that clasp and nearly round the stem in a peculiar manner. This eye-catching beauty blooms for several weeks and adds colour and contrast to the fall landscape.
Quick Growing Guide
Botanical Name: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
Botanical Family: Asteraceae
Also Called: Michaelmas daisy
En français: Aster de la Nouvelle-Angleterre
Indigenous Name: Waanisikensiwang
The colours of the New England Aster range from purple to pink and even white. In the fall, they give a splash of colour and contrast to perennial borders. It grows well in clumps or groups, and it looks fantastic in meadow drifts as well as natural or wildflower gardens. Aster grows quickly, is deer resistant, and can withstand drought. It can be thoughtfully included in many gardens, and is great for cut flower bouquets. Interestingly, a spicy aroma is emitted when the leaves are crushed.
Vital Late Season Nutrition for Pollinators
This aster is a vital source of late-season nutrition for pollinators. It attracts butterflies and skippers, and the nectar of the bloom provides a rich source of food for Monarchs and other butterflies late in the season. Other visitors include bumblebees, miner bees, and massive leaf-cutting bees, while turkeys and other birds consume the seeds of New England Aster and deer and rabbits eat the leaves.
It is a larval host for almost a dozen moth species. These insects must cross-pollinate in order for the seeds to be viable.
They are a magnet for bees and butterflies. Two bird species that eat its seeds are chickadees and American finches.
Propagating Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
There are 3 ways you can plant Aster: from seed, from stem cuttings and from division.
- Start seeds indoors by placing one or two seeds in half-filled starting pots, slightly covering them (approximately 1/8′′),
- place in indirect sunshine,
- keeping damp (but not soggy), and
- thining the seedlings when they have one set of leaves, retaining the stronger one.
- Acclimate the seedlings outside after the last frost (2 hours each day for the first 3-4 days), then transplant the seedlings outside.
To propagate by division, cut straight down through the roots, and re-plant the removed portion elsewhere.
Caring for New England Aster
Though it prefers moist, rich soils, it also grows in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun.
Pinching is one of the recommended techniques to trim asters. Before mid-July, pinch back stems many times to limit plant height, enhance bushiness, and maybe eliminate the need for staking. Because pinching back will cause flowering to be delayed, discontinue pinching after mid-July. Another method for pruning asters is to thin them by cutting whole stems at their base. Expect to cut no more than one stem in three. You may make bouquets and vase arrangements using your cut stems.
Aster novae-angliae sometimes has issues with powdery mildew. To prevent the disease give plants good growing conditions and space for air circulation.
Recommended companion plant suggestions include Asclepias incarnata, Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Chrysanthemums, Sunflowers, Asteraceae
Pruning Aster de la Nouvelle-Angleterre
Because Aster is a fast-growing plant, it should be divided and pruned every 2-3 years. As a control tool, you may also pinch off new growth.
Traditional Medicinal Use
In the early 1700’s, travellers from England and parts of Europe brought the plant with them and that is when North American cultivation of the plant began. The roots have been widely used by indigenous people medicinally to help pain, diarrhea, fevers and more. It was also used by the Chippewa who smoked the roots in pipes to attract game.
New England Aster is relatively pest free but can be susceptible to powdery mildew which can be contained by planting in full sun, not watering the leaves, increasing air quality and buying high quality plants, as low quality plants have more potential to suffer from it.