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You Can Grow That! November 2012: Asters and Goldenrods

Short's aster. Photo courtesy

Mother Nature shows off her best decorating skills this time of year.

Strewn along the roadways are asters (Symphyotrichum) and goldenrods (Solidago), native perennials in North America that make the perfect pairing of blues and yellows.

We can follow nature’s lead in our own landscapes by planting the native species or hybrid cousins. There are several garden-worthy hybrids of these native plants, such as ‘Fireworks’ and ‘Golden Baby’ goldenrods and ‘Raydon’s Favorite,’ and ‘Alma Potschka’ asters, to name a few.

Besides adorning backyards and byways, these plants are an important part of a greater ecology that includes birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife. For instance, these fall blooming perennials are a key food source for migrating, pollinating insects and hummingbirds, which stoke up on nectar as they wing south.

Both plants do best in full sun and they tolerate light shade. Plant in well-drained, average soil. Asters and goldenrod are similar in care to another fall bloomer, the Chrysanthemum.

'Solar Cascade' goldenrod. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Cut back asters and tall goldenrods about half until the middle of July to rein in their height and increase the number of flowers. Depending on the cultivar, goldenrods can be fairly aggressive, spreading through underground stolens. At the end of the season when the plants look bad, cut them back to the ground and remove any debris to reduce the chance of disease or insect problems.

Asters tend to bloom a bit later and longer than mums, coming on at the tail end of goldenrod’s prime. Their long bloom period allows them to compliment the fall colors of trees and shrubs in the landscape.

Both plants may be susceptible to powdery mildew, so place them where they have good air circulation or use cultivars that are resistant to the fungus disease. Asters and goldenrods are lovely and long lasting as cut flowers, too.



8 comments to You Can Grow That! November 2012: Asters and Goldenrods

  • I have enjoyed the look of goldenrods waving in the wind as I drive down rural roads. I have never thought of planting them on purpose. Thanks for the food for thought.

  • I have seen a lot of asters at the Floriade this september, not sure what kind they were but the bees just LOVED them!

  • There are some really nice, garden-worthy cultivars, including Solar Cascades, Fireworks and Golden Fleece. The straight species of sometimes can be tall, a bit rangy and subject to powdery mildew.

  • Laila — that’s right about the bees. There are several cultivars that are garden worthy — Solar Cascades, Fireworks and Golden Fleece to name a few. Also, goldenrods and asters are an important element of late-season gardening to support migrating monarchs and other butterflies and bees.

  • Such a lovely color combination, and good information. I hadn’t thought about cutting back the goldenrod in July, but that makes sense. Good post.

  • Temple Newsam in Leeds has the national collection of Asters and they are amazing!!! Really inspired to grow more next year. I’ve posted a few pictures here and intend to do a proper post when I get chance: I’ve always grown a few but had no idea they could grow so large and spectacular. Nice post :)

  • I love the asters that grow wild in every meadow in my neighborhood. Their deep purple complements the abundant goldenrod, and they draw so many butterflies and bees. Never thought to grow them in a garden, but I’m sure if I leave a patch untended for a season or two it will sprout aster plants spontaneously!

  • Daniel — there are many garden-worthy cultivars of native asters…the Wood’s series, Raydon’s Favorite, Alma Potschke, Purple Dome. Go for it!

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