New England Aster for Late Season Blooms

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. The Greek word “aster” originally meant “star.”

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.

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

Blooms:

Water: Medium

Pollinators:

Hardiness Zones:

In the past, asters were also known as starworts, frost flowers, pink vectors, and Michaelmas daisies. Despite having petals that resemble daisies, asters are actually small members of the sunflower family. In the floral language, these starry blossoms represent elegance or daintiness. They are a traditional gift for September birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

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.

Monarch butterfly feeding on a New England Aster

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.

Aster novae-angliae sometimes has issues with powdery mildew. To prevent the disease give plants good growing conditions and space for air circulation.

Companion Plants

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.

Pinching is one of the recommended techniques for trimming 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.

Flowers and Blossoms

At the stem’s summit, branching clusters of stalked blooms emerge from the upper leaf axils. Branches are frequently covered in leaves and flowers. Flowers are 1 to 112 inches across, have 40 to 100 narrow petals, and a golden center that ages to a reddish-purple color. Ray flowers have 40 to 100 narrow petals. Its hue ranges from rose pink to purple.

The three to five layers of very narrow, widely spaced, green to purple-tinged bracts (also known as phyllaries) encircle the flower’s base and have short glandular hairs on them. Below the flower are a few short, leaf-like bracts that can be up to 112 inches long. An assortment of glandular and non-glandular hairs cover the stalks and bracts.

Leaves and Stem

The majority of the leaves are lance-shaped, some of which are widest above the middle. They range in size from 1 to 4 inches long, 12 inches to 1 inch wide, are toothless, stalkless, and taper to a pointed or rounded tip. The base of the leaf has two lobes (auricles) that wrap around the stem and clasp it. It has a rough upper surface. the lower surface has softer hair. 

By the time flowers appear, both the lower stem leaves and the basal leaves, which resemble spatulas more, have withered. Upper stem leaves frequently cluster together. The single or many, typically upright, sturdy, brown to reddish stems have short, spreading hairs covering them from the base up.

Growth

In full light and rich, evenly moist soil, asters thrive. Use a professional potting medium that contains 20–35% peat moss to help plants retain water. Give them plenty of space to expand; excellent airflow will assist in warding off powdery mildew. Despite having a bushy, compact habit, this variety may still need staking. From late spring through July 4th, pull plants back to encourage dense growth that is less prone to fail. To keep them healthy and vigorous, divide them in the spring every couple of years.

Fertilizing

As heavy feeders, New England asters thrive best when fed at 150–200 ppm nitrogen rates as part of a continuous liquid fertilization program. Use fertilizers that are N-P-K-complete with the majority of the nitrogen in nitrate form. Micronutrient fertilization is also advised. As soon as the blooms open, stop fertilizing and use pure water.

Aster needs frequent irrigation, especially as they reach their final size. When irrigation is required, we advise watering deeply and letting the soil become a little bit dry in between applications.

Animals and Insects

This great pollinator favorite is frequented by bees and butterflies, who also serve as hosts for the larvae of the Northern Flower Moth, the Gorgone Checkerspot Butterfly, and the Pearl Crescent. Additionally, they are resistant to deer.

Diseases and Pests

Although New England Aster is relatively pest-free, it can be more susceptible to powdery mildew. All of this can be avoided by planting in full sun, not watering the leaves, improving air quality, and purchasing high-quality plants, as low-quality plants are more likely to be affected.

Conditions permitting, pink asters can nonetheless be affected by aphids, green patch aphid (in greenhouses), western flower thrips, rosy blister gall (Asteromyzia), Japanese beetle, chrysanthemum lace bug (Corythucha), aster leafhopper, and leaf and root-knot nematodes. They may experience growth problems from leaf spots, aster wilt (Phialaophora), Verticillium wilt, anthracnose, downy mildew, rusts, powdery mildew (Erysiphe), crown gall, Impatiens necrotic spot virus, aster yellows, stem canker (Phomopsis, Rhizoctonia), or rots (Fusarium and Sclerotinia)

Similarities

The New England Aster, which blooms through October and even into November, is a crucial late-season food source for pollinators. If you plant it in your garden, you can be sure that you’ll have a pollinator party that lasts until the last flower has withered away. 

The flower’s numerous, narrow, purple rays (up to 100), golden yellow disk, and widely dispersed tiny phyllaries make it simple to differentiate it from other blue-violet asters. The leaves have a few small teeth along the edge and resemble Purple-stemmed Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) leaves in some ways. Purple-stemmed Aster leaves tend to have a longer taper to a sharply pointed tip.

Traditional Medicinal Use

In the early 1700’s, travelers 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 with pain, diarrhea, fevers, and more. It was also used by the Chippewa, who smoked the roots in pipes to attract game.

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