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"Growing the Many Different Fall Asters"

Fall is a colorful season, not only with all the autumn leaves displaying their vibrant hues, but also in the garden. There are many different fall-blooming perennials that provide color in the autumn garden. One group in particular that offers an array of blooms is aster. Fall-blooming asters come in a range of plant and flower sizes and bloom over a long period from as early as late summer until as late as November. Click on a plant name below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Dwarf asters are some of the smallest in this large group of fall-blooming perennials. They form a compact mound of fine foliage that is smothered with small, daisy-like flowers in a range of colors that includes rose-red, pink, lavender, lavender-pink, and white. Most grow between a foot and a foot and a half tall. Good for the front of the flower bed or border, these fall-blooming asters begin blooming in late summer and continue into mid autumn, providing a very long bloom period.


New England aster is a native perennial and there are many different cultivars that hybridizers have developed that are improvements over the native wildflower. Aster 'Purple Dome' is one of the best. Growing just 18 inches tall, it forms a perfect dome of foliage and flowers. It's covered with small, daisy-like, purple flowers in September and October. It's a great substitute for hardy mums which aren't always hardy.

New York aster is also a native perennial. It's a taller aster, averaging three feet tall or so. Atop its stems are clusters of single and semi-double, daisy-like flowers. Flower color includes white, rose, and shades of blue from sky blue to lavender blue.

White wood aster is another native wildflower aster. Unlike many asters, this type of aster grows well in shade. In the wild, it grows in deciduous woods as an understory plant. In the garden it prefers part sun to shade. Shiny, airy, purple stems carry small, pure-white daisies with golden-yellow centers. It begins blooming in September and continues blooming into October. It grows two to three feet high and as wide.

Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black' is a very eye-catching aster. It has striking plum-purple foliage that in itself is attractive in the garden especially when combined with silver- or gray-leaved plants. In September it bears dozens and dozens of small white daisies with raspberry-pink centers held on long slender flower stems that are carried horizontally. The contrast of the flowers and foliage is stunning. It grows three to four feet high.

Aster tataricus is one of the latest-blooming asters. It's also one of the tallest, reaching heights of six to seven feet tall. Atop its tall stems are clusters of inch-wide lavender daisies. It begins blooming in very late fall and is one of the last plants of any kind to bloom in the garden.

These are just some of the many different fall asters. At my free gardening workshop this week I’ll have a large selection of these and many fall asters for sale. See the "If You Go" box for more information.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Stake Sedum Early to Prevent Flopping"

Q. My gardening question pertains to sedum. Each year, the plant comes up and stands straight, but now it looks as though someone has sat in the middle of the plant. The same thing happened last year. Will be looking for your answer.

A. Sedum (and other plants with large, heavy flower heads) has a tendency to flop over when its flower heads become fully formed. They are simply too heavy for the stems to support. They fall away from the middle and give the plant the appearance you describe. You won't notice this happening earlier in the season as the plant is growing because at that stage the stems are sturdy enough to support the still-developing flower umbel. The best way to prevent this from happening next year is to stake, and stake early. By now it's too late. You could try to stand the stems up and support them with stakes now, but you run the risk of snapping off the stems at this point. Next year, as the soon as the sedum has started to grow, stake the stems. An easy way to stake the entire plant rather than each individual stem is to use a plant support ring, like those used on peonies. Slip it over the plant while the stems are still short and as the sedum grows, its stems will grow up through the holes of the cross-hatched wire grid of the horizontal ring and be supported. Once the sedum is fully grown, you won't be able to see the support ring. You could also place four stakes around the perimeter of the sedum and tie green string around the entire plant, looping it around each stake, to support it.

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