Description & Overview

Blue Wood Aster is a showy perennial that is native to and found throughout Wisconsin. In the wild, it is found along creek banks and woodland edges, but also in disturbed urban sites, roadsides, and ditches. Dark green leaves are heart-shaped with coarse teeth towards the bottom of the stem, and more ovate ascending the stem. Blue flowers appear in late summer and last through fall, each flower head about ¾” wide with a yellow center. Blue Wood Aster may also be known as Common Blue Heart-leaved Aster or Heart-leaved Aster.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 6-48 inches

Mature Spread: 12-24 inches

Growth Rate: Fast

Growth Form: Erect, naturalizes

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Full Shade

Site Requirements: Average to dry to moist soils

Flower: Pale to rich blue with a yellow center about ¾" wide, 8-20 rays

Bloom Period: September – October

Foliage: Green, toothed, heart-shaped base, up to 5" long

Fall Color: None

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Dry seed with fluffy pappus

Suggested Uses

Common Blue Wood Aster thrives in sites with average to drier soils that have good drainage. It can tolerate full sun to full shade, although it prefers part shade, with flower production being greater with more sun. It is an ideal plant for pollinator, native, or cottage gardens.

Choose sites under trees, shrubs, or awnings that will provide the plant with some drier soils and protection from the sun during the day.

This is a great option for planting in a woodland setting where buckthorn or garlic mustard has been removed. If allowed to naturalize, the understory will fill up with Blue Wood Asters, creating a feast for pollinators and adding visual appeal to boot! Stream banks and woodland slopes would also make a great site for this plant.

Blue Wood Aster is a showy perennial that is native to and found throughout Wisconsin. In the wild, it is found along creek banks and woodland edges, …

Wildlife Value

Asters feed a staggering number of insects, including scores of specialist bees. Blue Wood Aster is the host plant for the Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), Gorgone Checkerspot (Chlosyne gorgone), Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta), Wavy-lined Emerald moth (Synchlora aerata), Canadian Sonia moth (Sonia canadana), Robinson’s Pelochrista moth (Eucosma robinsonana), Aster-head Eucosma moth (Phaneta tomonana), Landryia impositella, Striped Garden Caterpllar moth (Trichordestra legitima), Goldenrod Flower Moth (Schinia nundina), Arcigera Flower Moth (Schinia arcigera), Aster Borer Moth (Papaipema impecuniosa), Burdock Borer Moth (Papaipema cataphracta), Dark-spotted Palthis moth (Palthis angulalis), Black Arches (Melanchra assimilis), Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis), The Asteroid (Cucullia asteroids), White-dotted Groundling (Condica videns), Common Tan Wave (Pleuroprucha insulsaria), and Narrow Bucculatrix (Bucculatrix angustata).

Specialist bees include the Simple Miner bee (Andrena simplex), Peaceful Miner bee (Andrena placata), Aster Miner bee (Andrena asteris), Sunflower Miner bee (Andrena helianthi), Dwarf–dandelion Mining bee (Andrena krigiana), Coneflower Mining Bee (Andrena rudbeckiae), Canadian Miner Bee (Andrena canadensis), Pigmented Miner bee (Andrena chromotricha), Hairy-banded Mining bee (Andrena hirticincta), Cloudy-winged Mining bee (Andrena nubecula), Protandrena albitarsis, Eastern Bare-miner bee (Protandrena andrenoides), Agile Long-horned bee (Melissodes agilis), Drury’s long-horned bee (Melissodes druriellus), Denticulate Longhorn bee (Melissodes denticulatus), Dark-veined Longhorn bee (Melissodes trinodis), Oblique Longhorn bee (Svastra obliqua), Aster Cellophane bee (Colletes compactus), Pugnacious Leafcutter bee (Megachile pugnata), and Spine-shouldered Cellophane bee (Colletes simulans).

Blue Wood Aster also attracts other bees, wasps, butterflies, and their allies including Small Carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.), Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) such as the Broad-handed Leafcutter bees (Megachile latimanus), and Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) like the Golden Northern Bumblebee (Bombus fervidus) and the Half-black Bumblebee (Bombus vagans). Long-horned bees (Melissodes spp.), Cuckoo bees (Triepeolus spp.), Green Sweat bees (Agapostemon spp.), Bee flies (Bombylius spp.), Syrphid flies (Syrphus spp., Eristalis spp.), Soldier bees (Chauliognathus spp.), Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), Dark-spotted Looper moth (Diachrysia aereoides), American Angle Shades (Euplexia benesimilis), Pale-banded Dart (Agnorisma badinodis), Isabella Tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), and the Confused Eusarca moth (Eusarca confusaria) are all visitors.

Turkeys and Ruffed Grouses will feed on the foliage and seeds to some degree.

Maintenance Tips

Cutting back stems in mid-July can help control the need for staking.

The lower leaves will typically dry up when Common Blue Wood Aster starts blooming — this is normal.

This plant spreads via short rhizomes, as well as by seeds that are carried away by the wind. To control spread, deadhead spent blooms before they set seed, or remove any offsets.

Supplemental watering during times of drought will reduce plant stress and foliar diseases.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

Powdery mildew can occur but can be prevented with good air circulation. Don’t plant too close together and thin occasionally.

Leaf Lore

The genus Symphyotrichum translates roughly to “coming together hair” referring to the flower anthers. The specific epithet cordifolium means heart-shaped leaves.

As a rather ubiquitous plant, many cultures have found many uses for Asters. They were often burned to keep away evil spirits.

The ancient Greeks used Asters as an antidote for snakebites and to drive away snakes.

The Ojibwa used to smoke the root to make incense to attract deer.

Asters are still associated with elegance and daintiness. They were once talismans of love and considered the herb of Venus.

Companion Plants

Great companions for Blue Wood Aster include Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), Starry False Solomon’s Seal (Mainanthemum stellatum), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica), Canada Wild Ginger (Asarum candense), Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia), and Two-leaf Miterwort (Mitella diphylla).

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Written by Beth DeLain