New England aster is a native perennial forb which grows from 2 ½ to 6.0 feet tall with hairy stems and leaves. The alternate leaves are up to 4 inches long and 1 inch wide, with broad, clasping bases and pointed tips. The individually stalked flower heads are in an open, rounded cluster at the tops of the main stem branches. The flower stalks and bracts at the base of each flower head are covered with gland-tipped hairs. Each head is about 1 ½ inches wide, with 40 or more bright purple, petal-like ray flowers surrounding a central yellow disk. The ray flowers are sometimes pinkish purple or pale lavender in color. New England aster is the showiest of the genus, and stand out on roadside shoulders and ditches from August through late October
New England aster can be used for roadside plantings, prairie restoration, wildlife cover, prairie landscaping and wetland situations.
Adaptation and Distribution
New England aster grows in prairie swales, wet meadows, alluvial soils and thickets, low fields in valleys, and moist ground along streams. It ranges from Quebec to Alberta, south to North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
Prepare a clean weed free seedbed by disking and harrowing or using chemical weed control. Firm the seedbed by cultipacking. Seedbed should be firm enough to allow seed to be planted 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep. The seed of New England aster needs cold stratification for maximum germination if seeded in spring or summer (34-40 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 days). Use a planter that insures proper seeding depth and good seed and soil contact like a brillion roller that is capable of handling and placing seed in a uniform manner. There are approximately 1,100,000 seeds in a pound of New England aster.
Reduce weed competition by mowing over the height of the New England aster plants or cultivating between the rows. Use a non- selective contact herbicide while dormant or a pre emergent herbicide to control annuals after the New England aster is established. Remove dead plant material in the spring for faster green-up by shredding. Burning of dead plant refuge can weaken the plants unless done before it has broken dormancy.
Pests and Potential Problems
The most destructive diseases in the cultivation of asters are various forms of stem-rot. They are of fungus origin and are induced by allowing the plants to remain moist too long at a time. The infection usually takes place in the seed-row, but often no effect is noticed until the plants are nearly full-grown, when they suddenly wilt and die. The “yellow disease” causes the plants to have a bleached appearance and to make a spindling growth. Thorough cultivation of the soil is the best preventive.
Plant description via USDA-NRCS Plant Database, Plant Fact Sheet: New England Aster, Symphyotichum novaeangliae
New England Aster Photo Credit: Jennifer Anderson hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database