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Botanical name: Aster spp
Common name: Aster, michaelmas daisy, starwort, frost flowers
USDA zones: 3 to 8 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Although somewhat drought tolerant, asters do best in well-drained soil.
Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade
Mature size: Ranges from 4 inches high (dwarf varieties) to 4 feet high
Benefits and tolerances: Asters can be susceptible to quite a few problems; choose a disease-resistant variety.
Seasonal interest: Blooms in the fall
When to plant: Early fall or after the last frost of winter
Distinguishing traits: The aster was named after the Greek word for "star," due to the flower's star-like shape. It has a bright yellow center that is made up of tiny flowerets. The flowers range from about 1/2 inch to about 3 inches in diameter.
Because there are so many different species, the size of the plant varies from dwarf to tall. The flowers vary in size too and come in colors that include white, purple, pink and red.
Most aster plants have soft, mounded shapes. They attract butterflies.
How to use aster in the garden: Aster is a versatile plant that works well in all types of gardens, including borders, perennial gardens, butterfly gardens and rock gardens. It also adds beauty to meadows in the fall. Asters come in a range of hues that mums don't, such as blues and purples.
Use the plant as part of your three-season planting plan. If you have a perennial garden you'd like to have blooms in for as long as possible, plant asters throughout it. For a short-lived but spectacular show, plant large borders or swaths with a variety of asters. This will make September one of your yard's most memorable months.
Planting notes: As soon as you see aster plants in the nursery, snatch them up and plant them in late summer or early fall. This will give them a good chance to get established before the first frost, which increases their chances of returning the following year.