New England Asters, a Pollinator Magnet for Your Garden.

Backlight Fall New England Aster
Backlight Fall New England Aster. Photo by Donna L. Long.

New England Asters are some of my favorite flowers. I know when the asters bloom in my garden that fall is truly here and the calendar year is coming to the end.

New York asters are similar flowers. I am not sure what the difference is between the two species. They both are great for attracting pollinators.

Asters, both New England and New York species, are readily available at nurseries and garden centers. There are many colors, heights, and growing conditions of the cultivars available. You will be able to match aster varieties to growing conditions in your garden.

Pollinators just love asters. There are always swarms of little bees, flies, and butterflies, sipping nectar from the reddish-purple flowers.


New England Asters in my garden. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Facts About Asters

Common name: New England Aster

Scientific name: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (old name: Aster novae-anglia L.)

Family name: Asteraceae. There are dozens of Aster species in the east. There are about 600 species in the world, mostly from North America. Asters hybridize freely.

There are many cultivars of New England and New York Asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) available.

Description: a multitude of pretty purple flowers.
Native range: Symphyotrichum novae-anglia L. ranges from Quebec to Alberta, south to North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
Habitat: This plant is often found in moist prairies, meadows, roadsides, and streams. It likes well-drained soil and prefers sandy, loamy and clay soils. This plant can grow on nutritionally poor soil but prefers rich soil.
Arciegara Flower Moth (Schinana aragera) on the New England Asters in my garden.
Arciegara Flower Moth (Schinana aragera) on the New England Asters in my garden.

Asters are the Host Plants for These Butterflies

Host plant: Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea), Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nyceteis), Cucullia caterpillars (Cucuillias spp.), Flower Moths (Schinia spp.), Striped garden Caterpillar (Trichordestra legitima).


Aster and Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) on New England Asters (Symphyotricum novae-angliae) in my garden.
Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) on New England Asters (Symphyotricum novae-angliae) in my garden.

Asters Attract These Pollinators

Attracts: This is an insect magnet. Expect hoards of bees, butterflies, beetles, and moths sipping the nectar in the fall. Rabbits seem not to like to eat most species in this genus.


Quick Facts for Growing Asters in Your Garden

Asters grow in a mound-like shape, they are what I can a “clumping” growth habit. They don’t spread very much, but the plant can be tall and flop over a bit. The flopping can be controlled by trimming the plants back before it blooms. You can probably prune the plant up to two months before it blooms. You don’t want to clip off buds that are supposed to bloom in the late summer and fall.

Growing Tips: These plants are easy to grow from seed. The seeds should be sown fresh in the fall or spring.  Pre-chill spring sown seeds to improve germination. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, place them into individual pots and plant them out in the summer.

Height: 2-6 feet
Light needed: grows well in a sunny location and can succeed in partial shade.
Hardiness zones: 3 to 9
Bloom period: in fall
Bloom color: violet to purple or rose


See Also My Posts

New England Asters are a Buffet for Pollinators 

Rudbeckias (Coneflowers) for Hot and Sunny Sites

Summer into Fall Blooming Native Plants a free pdf plant list to download

Pollinator Syndromes: How to Predict Which Flowers Insects Will Like

Further Information: New York Aster USDA Plant Guide 


A Seasonal Gardener's Handbook, Revised edition by Donna L. Long.
A Seasonal Gardener’s Handbook, Revised edition by Donna L. Long.

A Gardener’s Seasonal Handbook  – my book on when and how to plant, prune, and maintain your garden.

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