Common names: October Skies, Aromatic Aster
Botanical names: Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
As its name implies, the fall aster blooms in fall proving a colorful display when other flowering plants may have run out of steam. The plants mound around 2 to 3 feet by sending out stolens. Native to the Midwest and eastern United States, fall aster grows 1 to 3 feet tall. The stems are slender and rigid and the leaves at the bottom are larger than leaves at the top.
NOTE: According to Mt Cuba Research Center’s 2006 report, “The term ‘aster’ is still correct if used as a common name but recent changes in botanical nomenclature have made its use incorrect for the species native to North America. According to botanists, the genus Aster is restricted to Eurasia. Those species native to North America that were formerly classified as being in the genus Aster have now been divided into separate genera. Eastern North American genera include: Symphyotrichum, Ionactis, Eurybia, Seriocarpus, Doellingeria, Ampelaster and Oclemena.” (Reference 1, page 2)
Characteristics: Fall aster is a bushy perennial with numerous branches. It does best in sunny locations, becoming a little leggy in shady locations and has a tendency to lodge or fall over. Cut back to the ground in late spring to have it come back upright and bushier in the fall.
Size: 2 feet tall
Flowers: medium violet-blue flowers about 1 inch in diameter with slight scent.
Bloom time: late September until frost
Leaves: short narrow leaves, rough texture.
Pests and Disease Problems: disease and pest resistant
Growing in North Texas
This is a wonderful plant for North Texas. It is suitable for sunny locations, but adapts to lightly shaded areas. It is drought tolerant and has no pest or disease problems. It is very easy to divide after blooms die back and plant throughout your garden for lovely fall color. It will bloom the season following division. After blooms have died back, cut plant back to the ground. Asters tolerate acidic, rocky or sandy soils. Thin regularly to control spread.
References “Asters for the Mid-Atlantic Region, Performance Evaluation and Recommendations for Landscape Use”, Mt Cuba Research Center Report, 2006; Jeanne Frett, Research Horticulturist and Victor Piatt, Trial Area Gardener.