Companion Plants for Asters
Aster means “star”, and certainly Asters are stars of the autumn garden. But stars need supporting actors, or the show can be pretty boring. For example, those one person shows where the star spends two hours impersonating, say, Teddy Roosevelt. Be honest, would you pay good money to see that? I didn’t think so.
Which goes to show that asters need the right companion plants to make for a really beautiful autumn garden. Incidentally, all of the perennials in this post are native to central North America.
Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) is a really good companion for mid-size to shorter Asters. this is particularly true of blue-purple Asters, which all of mine are.
S. caesia has arching bluish stems lined with clusters of tiny golden flowers.
Zinnias, especially ‘Orange Profusion’ or ‘Profusion Fire’ are great annuals to plant with Asters. The Aster here, incidentally, is Aromatic Aster (S. oblongifolius). In this photo you can see just a few at the lower right – but do they pop or what? Zinnias have an impressive ability to keep blooming until late in the season – even without deadheading.
This sounds funny, but crabapple trees and other short, flowering trees can make a good Aster companion – at least if the trunk has some presence to it. Here’s Short’s Aster (Symphyotrichum shortii) in front of our ‘Donald Wyman’ crabapple. The soft cloud of flowers look good against the bare bark.
Let me take a moment here to put in a plug for Short’s Aster. As you can tell, it is one of my favorite Asters and it is all over my garden. And not just because I’m too lazy to pull up all the self-sown seedlings. Short’s Aster has the most wonderful sky-blue flowers and a bushy habit. It is adaptable, tolerates shade, and can grow to about 4′ tall. I generally cut it back in May or June (which keeps it at more like 3′), but IT NEVER NEEDS STAKING, unlike some Asters I could name.
Yes, I’m looking at you, New England Aster (S. novae-angliae). Why do you make me truss you up like a Thanksgiving turkey year after year (even after I cut you back)?
Anyhow, a good companion for the taller New England Aster is Brown Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba).
Asters also go nicely with ferns, assuming you pick a fern that can keep its green fronds late into the season.
Put the asters together with their companions, and you can get quite an appealing scene. This photo reminds me why I love to combine yellow or orange with blue or purple.
Oh, I almost forgot. Asters like bees as companions as well. Fortunately, all you have to do is plant the Asters, and the bees will come.
Short’s Aster, huh? I’ll check it out. The only ones I have experience with are A. cordifolius “Wood’s Blue” (which I like–unless it decides to take over the entire garden bed) and “Black Prince” Calico Aster. But they make your garden look so full and pretty right now that it’s hard to remember that an entirely different palette of plants was performing not long ago.
I have Calico Aster, but it is the straight species, and not nearly as nice as ‘Black Prince’.
Your garden is looking wonderful still Jason. I’d love to be a bee there, enjoying your asters. I have a permanent support for my tallest aster (Alma Poetschke) but the rest just flop. 😉
Rather than adding stakes late in the season why not use bamboo and peas netting which will just disappear if placed early in the season. Your Asters are lovely with everything you have combined them with.
I’m not sure where to find pea netting. Do you use it vertically or horizontally?
For peas it’s used vertically but for supporting perennials you stretch it horizontally between the bamboo.
The companions you have chosen for your asters are really lovely. The front garden is still looking very summery despite being so late in the season!
It’s been a warm September, though much cooler the last couple days.
I know exactly what you mean, foolishly I have a swathe of Asters planted on their own, lovely to watch Bees on them but I shall be correcting the error of my ways for next year and putting some with Rudbeckia.
I like that grass with asters in the last photo too. Is it Northwind?
Isn’t that for sure. Bees love asters. Especially those wild white asters. You have some pretty combinations here.
Thanks. Butterflies like asters, also, but they’re not as aster-crazy as the bees.
What a lovely view of the front garden. I love the asters in combination with the ferns. You’ve chosen your companions well!
Thanks. I love the yellow Rudbeckia and Solidago with the blue-purple Asters.
Lovely photos, Jason, and I couldn’t agree more. I planted a single New England aster some years back, and nature has done the rest, pairing it with volunteer goldenrod. Short’s Aster sounds especially appealing with its non-floppability.
One of these days I am going to figure out how to discipline those New England Asters.
Nice combinations of colors Jason. I agree that aster looks terrific with the crabapple.
Thanks. It was unexpected – that aster is a volunteer I allowed to settle in.
This is a great post…wonderful plants and combinations of colors. Very informative. Thanks.
Glad you liked it.
My asters were growing nicely and then one morning– they had been mowed down by the rabbits! Sprayed them with a Cayenne and water mix!
Yes, on occasion the rabbits will chow down on the asters. Doesn’t happen all that often, though.
They mowed this one to the ground!
I might have to try Short’s asters at the little house in the big woods, which has lots and lots of shade.
It may do well for you. An easy beauty, around here at least.
The asters bring such charm to a garden with their little open faces! Your garden is looking lovely as we head into fall!
Little open faces! Well put!
I’m just getting into adding asters. You sold me on Short’s Aster: sounds like it has all the characteristics I’m looking for. The combo with the orange Zinnias is a knockout.
I agree with you, if I say so myself.
I was looking at a lot of native asters recently and all of them were covered with bees, which surprised me so late in the year.
I like blue / purple and yellow too. It’s not only a great combination but very natural. I see it at the edges of the woods all the time.
So no wonder it looks so right.
Nice! Your garden still has that nice late summer freshness to it, even with all the fall flowers…. in fact I think it’s because of all the fresh blooms that the garden still has so many nice views!
I wonder if Short’s aster is what I see along the roadsides as I drive home. There are banks of asters along the interstate and I’m a little offended they grow so well without any care. I guess that’s the beauty of a native plant!
Exactly, or at least when they are in the right place.
Hmmm, I might have to try Short’s Asters since they tolerate shade. That is, if I can keep the rabbits and field mice from eating them. The only Asters I have in my garden were devastated by critters this year. Very frustrating.
That would be frustrating. I had some damage in the back, rabbits I think. Those Asters mostly recovered, and the ones in front were unmolested.
Great post…thanks for all the ideas. Our asters are just coming up for summer, so I’m off to find them some supporting actors!
All of those combinations are lovely! Blue and yellow go so beautifully together. My Asters were at their best while I was in NYC, it’s awful missing the best shows!xxx
That is one of the downsides of travelling while the garden is in flower.
The photo of your front garden is lovely. Gorgeous planting.
Your oldest reply I bet! I am at last going through emails that I was unable to respond to during trips and a busy fall, and it’s clear why I saved this one! Lovely, lovely photos and combos as always. I grow and LOVE both Aster shortii and Solidago caesia. I dug up a piece when I moved from Glen Ellyn 15 years ago and it’s been seeding about delightfully ever since. It seems to fill in vacant areas creating some unexpected but welcome combinations. A lovely texture too when not in bloom. Short’s Aster wanders around my prairie, easy to grow and so welcome in fall. Short it is NOT! Great plants to feature!
No Short’s Aster is not short, though I keep it more compact by cutting it back. Actually, it’s named after a botanist named William Short.
Jason, what did you have planted in this lovely spot earlier in the season?
The photos are from a couple of different places, actually. In one, there were daylilies and Asiatic lilies. In aonther, bee balm, wild bergamot, various salvias, swamp milkweed, and other stuff.
Your garden is just lovely. I found you because I have a LOT of White Wood Asters on my property- they are taking over. I am cutting them back the best I can and am looking to find companion plants that can keep up with this enthusiastic grower. This is very helpful! Thank you!
You’re welcome! I think the White Wood Aster may be a lot more aggressive in the eastern states, in my garden it actually struggles a bit.
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