Wood’s Blue AsterSymphyotrichum dumosum 'Wood’s Blue' (= Aster dumosus)
View more from Aster
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Blue is a color you simply can’t have too much of in the garden – it is so versatile and blends so well with every other color. So why let fall go by without a splash of blue? You won’t have to with Wood’s Blue Aster. A compact, mounding perennial to 16 inches tall, the star-like flowers are just an inch across, but carried in such profusion it’s a blue explosion. Their gorgeous warm violet-blue flowers begin to open in late summer, and reach their glory all through fall. A perfect size for edging beds, lining a path or growing in a pot by the door, this is a way to extend the flowering season that is easy and very effective. Blooming among the falling leaves they look so charming it takes your breath away. Easy to grow and trouble-free, these are plants, along with the companion Wood’s Pink and Wood’s Purple, that belong in every garden.
Wood’s Blue Aster will grow best in full sun, but a couple of hours of shade each day won’t really hurt. Plant it in almost any soil, although it perhaps does best in moist, well-drained, fairly rich soils. Established plants are drought resistant, and it even grows in wet ground and enjoys alkaline soils. Deer and rabbits, as well as pests or diseases, almost never bother it. It tolerates salt-spray too, so grows well at a coastal cottage. Cut off the old flowering stems in late fall or early spring – that’s it for the year. Work a mixture of soil and compost into the top of old clumps to regenerate them.
Nothing says ‘fall’ like the arrival of the first blooms on your fall asters. Without them there would be fall leaves, and not much more. When discovered by early travelers, and introduced into Europe, they amazed everyone, because all the flowers are long over before autumn there. The vision of brilliant blues among golden fall leaves takes your breath away, but older asters are often tall, and need work like staking, and take up a lot of room. That’s why Wood’s Blue Aster is such a treasure. That wonderful brilliant blue, but on a compact 18-inch plant that is entirely self-supporting. Plant it along the front of your border where it will hardly be noticed all summer – and then jump into prominence once Labor Day is behind us. Sparkling as the yellow and orange leaves fall, it turns almost any garden in an Instagram-ready glory.
Wood’s Blue Aster is a perennial plant that grows new stems each spring, starting late and slowly building in height and bulk into a rounded dome of deep green, 16 inches tall and up to 2 feet across. In late summer the first blooms might show, but it is fall that it becomes a blue star-burst, covered with a profusion of 1-inch daisy flowers with many narrow petals and yellow centers. The flowers are a light, glowing violet-blue that gleams and sparkles across the garden, pulling your eyes towards it. It expands slowly into a wider mound, but doesn’t need dividing or much attention at all for several years.
This gorgeous plant is perfect for scattering along the front of a perennial border, or a shrub bed. Plant it along a path with other plants that flower earlier, for an all-season entrance. Grow it in pockets in a sunny rock garden, or in the levels of retaining walls. Use it in more formal settings, or in wild and native gardens – it’s a selection of a native plant of North America. It is also great when grown in a pot, where it can be kept all summer in an out-of-the-way place, and then stood by the door, or on a patio as it begins to bloom.
Wood’s Blue Aster is very hardy, growing just fine in zone 3 and all the way to zone 8, failing only in the very hottest parts of the country.
For best results, plant in full sun, although a couple of hours of shade each day won’t be a big deal for it. Grow it in richer, moist, well-drained soil, although it is reasonably drought-resistant. It even grows in wet areas that aren’t underwater, and in alkaline soil too.
Normally free of pests or diseases, Wood’s Blue Aster is easy to grow, and it isn’t bothered by deer or rabbits. For the best results there are a couple of simple jobs that are worthwhile. First, up to, but no later than July 4th, pinch off the tip of shoots once they are a few inches tall. This will make them branch, giving you many more flower stems than otherwise – although plants will still bloom well even if you don’t do this. Cut down dead stems in late fall or early spring – either is fine. Also, in spring, work some compost mixed with a little soil into the crown of the plant, among the stems, covering them a little. This will encourage fresh rooting and more shoots – and a better plant.
Bushy aster is known to most gardeners as Aster dumosus, but botanists have renamed it Symphyotrichum dumosum, so learn that one and impress your friends. It grows wild throughout most of eastern and central North America, and even down in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It has also become established in much of Europe, escaping from gardens. Wild plants have small flowers, and bloom between August and October. Ed Wood was a very enthusiastic breeder of apples, living in Portland, Oregon. He didn’t limit himself to apples, though, and also bred other plants, including Asters. He bred several colors, which after his death were introduced to nurseries and gardeners by Lynn Caton, through his North Creek Nursery in Pennsylvania.
If you aren’t growing fall asters, your garden isn’t complete. Avoid the complexities of growing large types and opt for Ed Wood’s great plants – check out Wood’s Pink and Wood’s Purple as well. But order now, because the word is out just how good these plants are, and they won’t last long on our farm.