Years ago, I gave a friend some Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) volunteers, along with a number of other natives. A few months later she confessed to me that she had pulled it out of her garden because it looked too weedy.

Calico Aster

Not too long after that, I came to the conclusion that she was right. Not only was it kind of weedy, it was absolutely rampant in my garden. It seeded everywhere, and grew to the size of a small shrub, so I decided to replace it.

Which is too bad, because Calico Aster has many virtues. It is absolutely LOVED by many native bees and other pollinators (including a couple of butterflies for whom it is a host plant). The number of stings I got trying to remove this plant was, I suspect, good evidence of pollinator devotion. (In place of Calico Aster I planted other pollinator-friendly native Asters, so I did not feel guilty about this. I mean that.)

Calico Aster from more of a distance, looking more floriferous than usual.

I think the reason Calico Aster strikes some people as weedy is that the flowers are quite small, though they are enhanced by a mix of maroon and yellow centers. My understanding is that there are a number of showier cultivars, but I haven’t tried them.

Anyhow, my attempted removal of Calico Aster set the stage for an annual struggle whereby I was constantly spotting and pulling new volunteers. Like I said, it seeds like crazy, and it just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my garden.

Calico Aster up close

After this year’s dry summer, I noticed that Calico Aster was actually the dominant Aster in the Parkway Bed, which gets absolutely no supplemental water.

At this point, something clicked.

So I hereby give notice: Calico Aster, you can have the Parkway Bed. Honestly, you’ve earned it. And while you might be a little weedy, you’re still kind of cute. However, I maintain the right to cut back your flowers before they go to seed.

50 Comments on “CALICO ASTER, YOU WIN”

  1. Well this says it all about asters. I feel like there is so much to love but they do have a weedy look for much of the summer .. which of the natives do you feel is the strongest stemmed?Would be great to get your advice! Growing Raydon’s Aster but hesitant to recommend it because it is pretty weedy looking..

  2. It has been interesting to see what plants survive heat and drought. I’ve lost a lot of good plants that I couldn’t water, but I’d rather be able to have water in the house. I also had to laugh because although I love Lily of the Valley, I’ve been pulling it out all week. I’m storing them to take to a plant sale, but they sure took over.

  3. This has been my summer for weeds, not weedy-flowering plants. So many of my garden beds have been smothered by bindweed, the most aggressive of the infiltrators, that I find solace in the local park garden I maintain. The New England aster is in bloom there with goldenrod “fireworks” and they make a pretty sight. Onward!

  4. If I had a garden I might feel otherwise, but I’ve adored this plant from the first time I saw it, in Arkansas. It was running rampant along some railroad tracks, and filling up part of an old, tumble-down stone house. That’s probably what made it seem so charming: it was just the right plant for such an environment.

  5. I have a weedy aster in my garden too. I don’t know what kind it is. It doesn’t grow like this one but it arrived in my garden uninvited. I have grown to love it though. It has a more spreading way of growing. Fewer blooms but in the twilight of the day those blooms remind me of the stars in the sky. Sort of scattered. As you say no supplement water needed even in this drought time and it keeps on blooming.

  6. That sounds like a good compromise. I feel the same about all the asters running rampant all over my garden~hate’em all summer, then I take a smug bow when neighbors admire them in the fall :D. In a related matter, I have decided Joe Pye has spent his last summer loitering in my garden as well. I thought purpureum would be, well, purple. But it isn’t. Just sort of a weak mauve-grey that I hate followed by grey-brown seed heads that throw their seeds all over the place to create next year’s headaches. Yuck. I’m thinking of tracking down ironweed to replace it. Now THAT’s purple!.

  7. I hope the calico asters are suitably appreciative of the reprieve they’ve been given (and behave themselves by staying put)! I’ve tried for years to try to get some going in my garden, but no luck. I love the ‘gone wild’ look. They’re so good in a vase to support other blooms (kinda like baby’s breath).

  8. Anything that is described as “seeding like crazy” scares the heck out of me. I have a few asters in the garden that are rather well behave, which I’ve divided and spread around. Their bold-purple blooms are welcome this time of year, when most other blooms are on the decline, especially when they are leaning on and peeking through Japanese forest grass (Hakonechola macro).

  9. Jason I think you struck the right bargain ! LOL .. I am surprised that the actual flower head is so tiny !
    But what a multiplier and surviving such tough conditions .. she was meant to be a native no doubt at all.
    I have an aster (I have forgotten what type it is) it is “stuck” on the shadier side of the garden and refuses to give up .. so we came to an agreement, it doesn’t go crazy multiplying and I leave it to it’s own devices with a few beautiful blue flowers to appreciate .. it is nice to strike bargains with plants 😉
    Hope you are feeling good.

  10. Hello Jason, I think I’ve reached this level of mutual understanding with some of the plants in my garden. They’re in the “you’re only allowed because you’re the only thing that survives” category and while this isn’t the best accolade, it certainly beats bare ground or ill-suffering plants.

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