New York Aster
Where in the OLL?
The New York Aster is one of the best perennial plants native to our area for attracting native pollinators. It was placed in a few locations throughout the OLL gardens for this specific purpose. The New York Aster can be found in the Botanical Garden, Wildflower Meadow, Permaculture Garden, as well as in the Rain Garden. The New York Aster provides pollen for insects during its late blooming season, which helps bees when few other plants are flowering. The Aster looks beautiful and attracts butterflies, moths and bees, contributing beauty, diversity and very efficient pollination activity.
Plant growth form
Aster family plants are mostly herbaceous perennials, which means they will die back to the ground in fall but will overwinter due to an extensive root system. They can grow from 1 to 6 feet tall and can grow from 1 to 3 feet in width. New York Aster establishes its full vegetation around midsummer. Asters have simple leaves with alternate arrangement. They tend to bloom towards the end of summer into the beginning of fall.
Flowers, fruits & pollinators
Each flower is individual, but they occur as a large cluster in a ‘composite flower’, meaning several disguised as one. Flowers are rose or lavender colored, but can be white. It begins to flower in August and continues into October.
New York Aster is considered a perfect flower as well as being composite. Flower heads are composed of disc and ray flowers. The disc flowers develop together in the head’s “eye,” while ray flowers look (and function) like petals radiating outward from the eye. Disc flowers are perfect, containing both pistils (female) and stamens (male) parts. They are surrounded by lavender or white colored ray flowers, which appear to be petals, but each of the ray petals is actually an entire flower! Ray flowers are not fertile and do not produce seeds and fruit. The entire ‘composite’ flower is actually an made up of many flowers—an inflorescence–disguising itself as a single flower.
Ideal location, conditions & cultural needs
- Asters perform best with full sun and can tolerate partial shade but won’t produce as much bloom and vigor.
- They need moist but well drained soil and they are very drought tolerant. Asters prefer clay, loam and sand.
- Prefer a neutral pH of 7
- Adding compost to soil is an excellent idea, as well as a small amount of phosphorus to aid in root growth.
Planning & maintenance
- A full grown plant need needs 1 to 3 square feet
- Pinching Asters back will stimulate bloom and trimming stems back in early summer will provide a longer bloom period in fall.
Cultivars & propagation
- New York Asters as well as New England Asters do well in our region and when combined make a beautiful colorful arrangement to add to any garden and will attract many pollinators
- It’s best to propagate Asters by cutting a 3- to 5-inch section of stem and removing the lower leaves, while keeping 3 or 4 of the upper leaves. Then root the cutting in a sand or perlite medium. Placing a clear plastic bag over the cutting can to help it retain moisture.
- Plants and seeds can be purchased from local greenhouses or nurseries or seed companies.
Pests & pathogens
- Powdery mildew is the main disease affecting asters. To prevent this, it’s best to keep the stems thinned and provide excellent air circulation.
- The most destructive pest is the lace bug, which sucks the plant juices from the underside of leaves. Organic sprays can be used to treat plants as the insects appear.
- Other pests include: Spider mites, Rusts, White smut, Leaf spots, Stem cankers, Aphids, Tarsonemid mites, Slugs, Snails and Nematodes.
- Organic horticulture oils and insecticidal soaps help against these pests.
Landscape & ecosystem
- New York Aster add vibrant color to the landscape: light lavender colored petals that surround a beautiful sun yellow center
- It draws plentiful bees and butterflies, especially late in the season
Asters have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine for treating of pain, fevers, diarrhea and weak skin. Flowers and leaves can be eaten fresh or dried. Native Americans harvested wild aster for the roots of the plant, which they used in soups. Young leaves were cooked and used as greens. Native Americans combined asters and bloodroot to make a laxative. Some tribes used infusions of aster root topically to alleviate headaches. Portions of the flower have been rumored to be used in treating venereal diseases.