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Aster lateriflorus

Calico aster

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Aster lateriflorus is a shrubby aster with light green foliage.  In late summer plants produce myriads of starry pinkish daisies with rosy centers.  This aster is tough and adaptable prospering in sun or part shade and in moist or average soils.

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Aster lateriflorus occurs from Canada through the central and eastern United States. 

The species is often a woodland aster and is indigenous to wet meadows, bottomland forests, seeps, swamps, partly shaded sloughs and moist depressions in disturbed areas.

Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:   Aster lateriflorus is an upright rhizomatous plant with occasional side branches. Stems are greenish or reddish-brown with lines of white hairs. 

Leaves are alternate and lance shaped.  They are up to 4” long and ½” across becoming smaller as the stems rise.

Flower sprays materialize from late summer until mid-fall.  Individual heads are composed of a ring of white to pale pink petal-like ray flowers surrounding a central cluster of yellow to rose colored disc florets.  Blossoms are produced in profusion and are frequented by bees and butterflies.

Small achenes with tufts of white hair form after flowering.

Plants grow 1-4’ tall with 3’ spread and may form small colonies in appropriate sites.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDSAster lateriflorus flourishes in part sun or part shade.  In shade, however, plants are more open and airy with fewer flowers.

This aster adapts to most soil types.  Plants tolerate some drought but flourish in moist soils.

This species is fairly pest free but leaves are sometimes nibbled by rabbits.

This center of this vigorous plant may decline if the crown is not divided every few years.  Division can be performed in early spring or in fall as plants go dormant.   

LANDSCAPE USES:  This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden or Meadow. Plants are also used as a Butterfly Nectar Plant, Butterfly Host Plant, Cut Flower or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting.   Aster lateriflorus has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders and Shade Gardens.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Try pairing Aster lateriflorus with Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea tennesseensis ‘Rocky Top’, Penstemon digitalis, Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Liatris spicata, or Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’.

Aster pilosus is similar in appearance and could work in sunny dry sites if a substitute is needed.  The cultivar Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’ would be a worthy substitute in some garden situations.

TRIVIA:  The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Evaluation Program conducted a comparative study of 119 different asters.  Aster lateriflorus and the cultivar Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’ were two of 7 asters that received the highest rating.  According to the study, “Top rated asters displayed consistently strong habits, superior flower production, excellent disease resistance and full winter hardiness throughout a six-year evaluation term.”

Aster lateriflorus has short nectar tubes compared to other Aster spp.  Short-tongued bees, beneficial wasps and pollinating flies are the most common visitors.  Long-tongued bees, small butterflies and skippers also seek nectar.  Caterpillars of Pearl Crescent and Silvery Checkerspot butterflies and of several moth species feed on the foliage.  Occasionally rabbits and deer browse the foliage.

Aster lateriflorus is also known as Symphyotrichum lateriflorum.


Height:

1-4 ft

Spread:

3 ft

Spacing:

2-4 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone:

4-9

Bloom Color:

White

Aster lateriflorus Characteristics

Exposure

  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Critter Resistance

  • Deer Resistant

Attracts Wildlife

  • Butterflies
  • Pollinators

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Dry

Attributes

  • Rock Garden
  • Naturalizing
  • East-Coast Native
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Cut Flower

Flowering Months

  • October
  • September

Foliage Color

  • Green

Season of Interest (Foliage)

  • Fall
  • Summer
  • Spring

Growth Rate

  • Fast

Juglans nigra Tolerance (Black Walnut)

  • Yes

Interesting Notes:

AKA Symphyotrichum lateriflorum


Plants that work well with Aster lateriflorus ''

Purple coneflower Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'Ruby Star')
Tennessee coneflower Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis 'Rocky Top')
Sweet coneflower Sweet coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)
Red switch grass Red switch grass (Panicum virgatum 'Rostrahlbusch')
Scaly blazing star Scaly blazing star (Liatris squarrosa)
Switch grass Switch grass (Panicum virgatum)

Substitutions for Aster lateriflorus

Calico aster Calico aster (Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black')
Frost aster Frost aster (Aster pilosus)