'Bluebird' smooth aster
Photo/Illustration: Bill Johnson
Asters are the grande finale to the perennial garden, displaying vibrant fall colors in shades of pink, purple, blue, and white. They’re also one of the last great feeding opportunities for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. For gardeners, it’s a two-for-one deal: beautiful blooms and a flurry of attractive wildlife.
Although there are many varieties and classifications of asters—New England, New York, heath, calico, aromatic, smooth, and wood, all native to North America—the basic qualities to look for when choosing one are height, bloom color, and bloom time. Whether you’re choosing one variety or several varieties of aster to brighten your fall garden, consider all of these factors. Once you’ve narrowed your options and made your final selection, some basic know-how will help you get the most out of your asters and keep them looking their best.