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Blue-stemmed aster

Symphyotrichum puniceum

Symphyotrichum puniceum

Regular price $6.48 USD
Regular price Sale price $6.48 USD
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Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade

Soil moisture: Medium to wet

Height: 5'

Spread: 2'

Flowering period: September

Tall and stately in form, purple-stemmed aster dons a cover of lavender flowerheads in autumn. The plant’s admirers are many, and they visit often to sip the nectar which is graciously served to guests. These visitors arrive exquisitely robed, especially the butterfly crowd. Perhaps they have noticed that among asters, purple-stemmed aster is second only to New England aster – also a favorite of theirs – in the size of its flowerheads. And at the center of each flowerhead, up to 50 nectar-containing florets can be sampled in quick succession – how convenient! Purple-stemmed aster’s popularity extends to many creatures beyond butterflies, including short and long-tongued bees, flies, wasps, and moths. Many of these organisms forage for pollen as well as nectar when visiting the plant.

A plant of wetland environments, purple-stemmed aster inhabits swamps, marshes, and wet woods. In the garden, purple-stemmed aster grows well in consistently moist soil under full sun, but also tolerates partial shade. Maintaining a cover of leaf litter helps to increase soil organic matter and encourages the moist conditions that purple-stemmed aster likes. If soil dries out during summer droughts, purple-stemmed aster will likely need to be watered. In response to dry soil, purple stemmed aster’s lower leaves may turn brown and fall off, and the plant may become more susceptible to disease.

Purple-stemmed aster may spread via self-seeding, and due to the presence of short rhizomes, it will form a cluster of stems. This showy plant is not reported to be aggressive, though, and it is appropriate for formal settings as well as naturalized gardens. Growing up to 7’ tall, purple-stemmed aster works well towards the back of height-stratified gardens. For a colorful show, accompany purple-stemmed aster with wrinkleleaf goldenrod and white turtlehead.

Photo 1 by M. Martin Vincente. Photo 2 by Julie Slater.

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