Description & Overview

New England Aster is a delightful Wisconsin native perennial. Though it typically tops out at around five feet, this plant can reach a whopping height of seven feet! Green, lance-shaped leaves clasp the main stem. Bunches of purplish flowers bloom at the tips of the stems in late summer through fall. Once pollination is achieved and the blooms are spent, the heads turn brown and become fluffy with many tiny seeds. New England Aster may also be known as Michaelmas Daisy.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 2-5 feet

Mature Spread: 1-3 feet

Growth Rate: Perennial

Growth Form: Erect

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Site Requirements: Average to moist, well-drained

Flower: Purple to pink, ¾ - 1 ½“ wide, 45-100 rays, orange disk

Bloom Period: August – October, Late summer through fall

Foliage: Green, clasping stem, lance-shaped

Fall Color: None

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Dry seed with fluffy pappus

Suggested Uses

New England Aster flowers prolifically when planted in full sun, in average to moist soils. While it can tolerate some shade, it cannot handle full shade or dry soil. In times of drought, supplemental water will be needed.

A true favorite amongst pollinators and wildlife alike New England Aster puts off a plethora of flowers allowing butterflies, moths, and bees to gather plenty of nectar and pollen. The flat, daisy-like flowers provide ample space for insects to land and feed comfortably. This is a must-have in your native gardens, wildflower gardens, cottage gardens, pollinator gardens, butterfly gardens, or rain gardens. Blooming in late summer into fall, they provide a lovely burst of color as well as nourishment for pollinators before migration and hibernation.

Iconic in any prairie setting, New England Aster is a staple in restoration and remediation projects and will flower in the first year of planting, which increases the impact of your efforts!

New England Aster is a delightful Wisconsin native perennial. Though it typically tops out at around five feet, this plant can reach a whopping height…

Wildlife Value

It is difficult to overstate how many insects rely on Asters for sustenance. They are a powerhouse and pack a huge punch! New England Aster is a 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 that seek New England Aster 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).

New England Aster also attracts a host of other bees, wasps, butterflies, and their allies. These include 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 Bumble bees (Bombus fervidus). Half-black Bumblebees (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.

Birds including finches and sparrows will feed on the seeds.

Maintenance Tips

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

The lower leaves will typically dry up when New England 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.

New England Aster will not do well in shade or dry areas. Supplemental watering during times of drought will reduce plant stress and foliar diseases.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

Powdery mildew can occur but can be prevented by providing 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 novae-angliae means “of New England” in the United States.

The common name Michaelmas Daisy is due to the planting flowering around September 29, the Feast of St. Michael.

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 Chippewa smoke the roots in pipes and used New England Aster as a charm to attract game, while the Meskwaki and Potawatomi peoples used this plant as a stimulant to revive an unconscious person. The Iroquois used New England Aster as a love medicine and to treat fevers. The Cherokee used its roots for pain, diarrhea, and fever, and as a breathing aid.

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

Plants can hybridize with Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides).

Companion Plants

Other excellent pollinator plants that pair well with New England Aster include Riddell’s Goldenrod (Solidago riddellii), Blue Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Willows (Salix spp.), Carolina Rose (Rosa carolina), Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum), Golden Groundsel (Packera aurea), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Sedges (Carex spp.), Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa), Speckled Alder (Alnus incana var. rugosa), River Birch (Betula nigra), Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor), Tamarack (Larix laricina), and Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii).

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Written by Beth DeLain