Bright purple daisies with contrasting golden yellow centers adorn these shrubby perennials from August until October. Growing to four feet high and wide, the plants tend to sprawl unless staked. Stems bear long, lance-shaped leaves of dull green. Numerous cultivars have been developed with a wider range of flower colors, including pinks, fuchsia, and lavender.
As their name implies, New England asters are native to damp thickets and meadows of the northeast. They do well in Colorado as long as they have amended soil and regular irrigation. Don’t keep the ground soggy, however, as that encourages infection by fungal diseases. Plant purchased seedlings or rooted cuttings in full sun. Larger areas may be direct seeded in fall; cold winter temperatures are necessary for germination to occur. Pinch back stems early in the season to promote branching, but stop when buds begin to form in mid-summer.
Their medium height and less-than-ideal foliage makes New England asters perfect for the middle of a perennial border. Try pairing them with other late bloomers with similar watering requirements. Tall sunflowers (both annuals and perennials) make a lovely backdrop, while goldenrod contrasts in color and form. Combining purple asters with ornamental grasses in copper and russet tones is especially pleasing.
Article and photo by Leslie Holzmann, Colorado Master Gardener.