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Calico aster

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum

Regular price $11.99 USD
Regular price Sale price $11.99 USD
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Sun/shade: Full sun to full shade

Soil moisture: Dry to wet soil

Height: 3'

Spread: 1'

Flowering period: September

Calico aster’s stems branch in a horizontal fashion, lending this compact aster a charming, shrub-like form. In the fall, the plant’s stems produce numerous white rayed flowerheads on their upper sides, suggesting branches lined with snow. As the flowerheads become depleted of viable pollen, their central disks turn from pale yellow to a rosy pink, adding additional interest. In 2009, the Chicago Botanic Garden concluded a 7-year study aimed at identifying “outstanding asters for upper midwestern gardens.” Out of 119 asters and cultivars tested, the wild-type calico aster was one of just 7 plants that received the study’s highest rating of 5 stars.

A native constituent of NE Ohio forests, forest edges, meadows, and wetland margins, calico aster displays broad adaptability in terms of sunlight and soil moisture. Growing best in consistently moist soils in partial sunlight, the plant also does well in full sun and tolerates both moderately dry soils and periodic flooding. Although calico aster does spread via rhizome, it rarely forms large colonies and is not considered aggressive. Attaining a height of 2-3 feet, calico aster is a fine choice for both formal and naturalized gardens, and can be utilized as a fall-blooming border along paths and walkways. Calico aster’s preference for partial shade makes it a good choice for shade gardens and plantings at the base of trees. For a pleasing color combination, plant calico aster along with New England aster and wrinkleleaf goldenrod.

In terms of wildlife value, calico aster attracts a wide range of bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and moths. This Xerces Society has included calico aster in its short list of recommended pollinator plants for the Great Lakes Region, noting that the plant’s “shallow nectaries attract more insect diversity than some related plants.” Researchers have found that the most frequent floral visitors to calico aster are wasps, followed by hover flies, blow flies, honey bees, sweat bees, and bumble bees.

Photo 1 © Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0. Photo 2 © Andrey Zharkikh, CC BY 2.0.

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