FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Aster turbinellus is an attractive shrubby mounding aster with rich green lance-shaped foliage. In late summer plants produce clouds of starry lavender to blue-violet daisies with reddish-yellow centers. This healthy vigorous aster is tough and adaptable prospering in sunny sites with medium to dry soils.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Aster turbinellus occurs in the central United States in 8 states including: Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The species occurs in tallgrass prairies, rocky savannas, openings and borders of upland woods, thinly wooded slopes, rocky glades, bluffs, cliffs and roadsides. Aster turbinellus usually occur in sites with sandstone, chert or granite outcrops.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 5-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Aster turbinellus is an upright well branched perennial. Stems are greenish or reddish-brown with lines of white hairs.
Leaves are alternate and lance shaped with no petioles. They are up to 4” long and 3/4” across becoming smaller as the stems rise.
In early autumn, stems are topped by billowy flower panicles. The panicles consist of many daisy-like flower heads borne on stiff wiry almost leafless stems.
Each head consists of 15-25 violet colored ray florets surrounding a cluster of yellowish to reddish-purple disc florets. The heads range from ¾” to 1½” across. Blossoms are produced in profusion over a long period of time and are frequented by bees and butterflies.
The florets mature into ribbed achenes with tufts of tawny hairs.
Plants grow 1-4’ tall with 3’ spread and may form small colonies in appropriate sites.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Aster turbinellus flourishes in sun or part sun in mesic to dry soil.
Plants tolerate drought, excess salinity, acid pH and loamy, rocky or clay soils,
This species is fairly pest free but leaves are sometimes nibbled by rabbits.
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 turbinellus has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings and Perennial Borders.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Aster turbinellus with Andropogon gerardii, Carex brevior, Echinacea purpurea, Eryngium yuccifolium, Liatris aspera, or Rudbeckia subtomentosa.
Aster laevis is another native violet flowering aster with similar cultural needs that could substitute if needed.
TRIVIA: Aster turbinellus was one of the top rated asters in the Mt. Cuba Center’s three-year evaluation of 56 species and cultivars of asters. The asters were graded on
floral display, habit, winter hardiness, cultural adaptability and pest resistance.
Aster turbinellus is also known as Symphyotrichum turbinellum.
The pollen and nectar of Aster turbinellus attracts honeybees, bumblebees, digger Bees, Halictid bees, beneficial wasps, pollinating flies, butterflies and skippers. Caterpillars of Pearl Crescent and Silvery Checkerspot butterflies and of several Moth species feed on the foliage. Occasionally rabbits and deer browse the foliage.
Identifying characteristics of Aster turbinellus are its relatively large flowerheads (over ¾” across) and panicle stems that are bare or with very tiny leaves. Plants are often among the last asters to bloom in fall and have sessile (stalkless) lower leaves that never have a heart-shaped base.