Aromatic Aster: That Which We Call an Aster by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet
By Jim Lakin MD, Master Gardener
As summer winds down and our garden colors turn to reds and oranges, the blue and yellow of Aromatic Aster is a lovely pleasure. But its good looks aren’t even the best reason to grow Aromatic Aster. Read this article to learn more about why this midwestern native should have a place in your garden.
Apologies to The Bard, but Symphyotrichum oblongifolium is known by several appellations including Oblong-Leafed Aster and Aster oblongifolius. Yet by any of these names it remains a fragrant, persistent, cheerful autumnal companion of our Midwestern prairies. You will find aromatic aster in dry, gravelly or rocky prairies, glades and savannas. When crushed, the foliage is pleasantly aromatic. It is relatively easy to grow in any well-drained garden soil in full sun or partial shade. Once established, it usually is a quite hardy native perennial and will frequently self-seed.
Being a good grower, it can crowd out less vigorous perennials. If that seems to be happening, you can trim it back through midsummer and still see a nice blooming in the fall when it produces abundant flowers in many shades of purple. Like other members of the Asteraceae family, blooming season is usually from late-August through early-November, although an early hard frost can end the show prematurely.
Aromatic aster tends to grow in mounds of 24 to 30 inches in height. Thus, it functions well as a traditional flower border or an informal hedge, putting on a dazzling show in the late fall. It is a favorite of pollinators and creates a valuable fall source of nectar for many species, especially last-of-the-season butterflies. It is hardy in Zones 3 through 8. Thus, most of Minnesota provides a suitable climate.
Aromatic aster is pretty much disease resistant although occasionally powdery mildew or lace bugs may be an issue. You may have to stake some of the plants in the fall as their abundant flower heads may otherwise weigh the plant down. Most of the time, however, aromatic aster does wonderfully well if left to its own devices.
Photo Credit: Jason Grand www.inaturalist.org