The many petal shapes and colors that chrysanthemums exhibit have made them a fall favorite for many years.  

Lately though, interest in plants native to North America have made perennial asters a popular contender as champion of fall color in northeastern gardens. Compared to the venerable chrysanthemum, asters are a relatively recent upstart. Their appeal to American gardeners may have been limited since they were a common sight along the roadside every fall. To early Americans, there was nothing special about this common plant. Soon you'll see those very same asters painting our meadows.  Native asters are found throughout North America and can tolerate very harsh conditions.

English gardeners, visiting their colonial cousins in the 1700s found asters to be quite lovely and brought seeds back to the British Isles with them. So even though asters are a native North American plant, they became a popular fall-blooming plant in the gardens of England long before Americans learned to appreciate them. It’s a classic case of one man’s trash becoming another’s treasure.

Asters are an easy-to-grow alternative to mums. They’re now available in an amazing assortment of colors and styles. Asters branch heavily without all the pinching mums need. They’re quite insect and disease resistant.  Asters should be planted in full sun in soil that’s been enriched with organic matter like composted manure or peat moss and, as always, a good starter food like Bio-tone. The area should also be well drained but not excessively dry. You can also pinch them to make them low and full. The fine, dark green foliage of asters is quite attractive, making a lovely background for lower, summer-flowering annuals or perennials. Asters mature quickly and should be divided in early spring every two or three years. Whichever you choose you’ll enjoy great fall color for many years to come. Another benefit is that bees and other pollinators will take full advantage of aster flowers but will completely ignore the mums.  That’s a big win for our native asters. 

Thanks for the read!

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