New England Asters, a Pollinator Magnet for Your Garden.

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) in my garden.


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. 

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

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. 

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.

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.

New England Aster in my garden
New England Aster in my garden


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).

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.

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

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) "Purple Dome"
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) “Purple Dome” in my garden


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. 

New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae)
New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae) in my garden


Summer into Fall Blooming Native Plants a free plant list for download

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

Further Information: New York Aster USDA Plant Guide 

Photo credits: Donna L. Long

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