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Aster ericoides – Heath Aster

Heath aster, Aster ericoides, starts flowering in September.

When the asters and ironweed arrive, we know fall is coming. Summer in the Deep South is tough on gardens and the gardeners who tend them. Just when it seems the heat will never end along comes heath aster, a welcome reminder of why we garden.

heath aster

Landscape Design with Heath Aster

The late summer/early fall asters are most often plants of the prairie and the hillsides. The flowers are diminutive, less than 1/2″. Heath aster taken as a whole is neither dignified nor conformist. It is a casual species and best in a casual setting. You could choose to juxtapose the natural with the formal.

I always love to see hedges and other more rigid garden structures contrasted with the less formal plants such as pale coneflower.

Heath aster is what many might consider a prototypical meadow or wildflower, although the various wildflower mixes sold throughout the years have tarnished the concept. Heath aster is native to much of North America. It is comfortable in the wild and certainly doesn’t need us around. Plant it in spaces where plants can settle where their seeds land. Plant it where you want nature.

Heath aster is drought tolerant

It flowers best in full sun, but you can grow it on the edges of woodland if afternoon sun is available. Over time it grows to 3′-4′ tall and wide. It grows in a haphazard manner. Don’t even consider staking. The small daisy-like flowers are 1/2″ or less. It makes up for the small flowers through sheer numbers. The needle-like leaves are not impressive, but they are in character with heath aster’s relaxed character.

Drought tolerance is excellent and it does fine in poorer soils. It also tolerates a range of pH, including alkaline soils. I would not recommend it for areas that are persistently wet in winter, but this is a general edict I follow. With the exception of those plants whose preference is persistently wet soil, most perennials prefer well-drained conditions.