African Garden + Spring

The Smooth Blue Aster
garden

*Calling it by its correct new Latin name of Symphyotrichum would have ruined the pun, but Symphyotrichum laeve, the Smooth Blue Aster, is a star by any measure. It is worthy of joining the ranks of the other wildflowers featured in Gail's Wildflower Wednesday series at Clay and Limestone.
Unlike other Asters and ex-Asters, it is attractive beyond its season of bloom. It is one of the earliest plants to sprout fresh leaves. In spring, its glaucous (I love that word) foliage provides a foil for early blooming plants.

That's it in the upper left corner, playing nicely with the pink blooms of Phlox pilosa 'Eco Happy Traveler' and the seedheads of Pulsatilla vulgaris.
All summer it looks good, with clean, healthy foliage.

Then in September it erupts into bloom.

Not only are the flowers attractive to people, they are the most popular of all the Asters and ex-Asters at Squirrelhaven with pollinators. Bees flock to it, while mostly ignoring the nearby S. oblongifolius 'October Skies.' The blooms just keep on coming, while the foliage remains attractive, a striking contrast to the New England ex-Asters, whose foliage often becomes mildewed, and whose ugly legs need camouflaging by the time the plants flower. The blooms themselves age well, with the center disks turning from yellow to red after pollination.

Then, just when it seems the show is almost over, the foliage blazes with firey tones of red and yellow.

It ages gracefully to brown.

During the winter, it is semi-evergreen with a clump of basal foliage. Sorry, no photo, as it has spent the last couple of winters completely buried in snow, but here's what it looked like in early March after I did spring garden cleanup:

Symphyotrichum laeve, syn. Aster laevis, common name Smooth Blue Aster Hardiness Zones 3-7 Full sun to light shade Height 2-4 feet, forms clumps Moist to dry soil, it is a native of mesic and dry-mesic prairies Not deer resistant, spray with repellents to protect from grazing Easy, low maintenance, well-behaved plant Larval host for Pearl Crescent butterfly
What more could you ask for in an Aster? So next time you're thinking of planting a New England Aster, why not plant this instead?

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