A late-season bloomer available in many colors, including vibrant purples, pinks, yellows, reds and blues, the aster is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes zinnias and mums. These plants do well in most of the United States, with the exception of humid climates (Zones 9-11) and frigid regions, such as the mountainous areas of New England or northern Minnesota. There are 600 varieties of aster, according to the 1997 Sunset National Garden Book. In general, asters thrive in rich, organic soil and full sun with regular watering.
New England Aster
New England aster (Aster novae-angliae) is one of the tallest, showiest members of the family. It grows to 5 feet with bicolor blooms that are violet with a yellow center, according to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's "Asters--Stars of the Show in Fall," fall 2000 edition. New England aster has a hairy, stout stem, making it a good cut flower. It enjoys wet soil and full sun and has many cultivars, so blooms are also available in different colors. This plant reseeds. Use in Zones 4-8.
New York Aster
Also a well-known aster, the New York aster (Aster novi-belgii) is smaller than its New England cousin and grows up to 4 feet with a thinner stem. Blooms are available in a range of colors, including pinks, reds, violets, blues and whites. Growing characteristics are similar to the New England aster. Cultivars include some smaller, more compact varieties, like the 12-inch Lady-in-Blue or Professor Kippenberg. Use in Zones 4-8.
White Wood Aster
The White Wood aster (Aster divaricatus) differs from other asters in that it is a shade-loving flower. The White Wood aster, which grows to 18 inches, has heart-shaped leaves in small, white blooms in late summer. The blooms become pale pink with age. This aster is invasive and may be controlled by thinning out after the growing season. Use in Zones 4-8.
Climbing aster (Aster carolinianus) is a vine that grows to 10-20 feet and has gray-green leaves. This aster flowers in the fall with small, pink blooms that turn purple with age. It may be used along a fence or trellis, but like wisteria, this vine loses all its foliage and flowers during the winter and may look like a mass of sticks in the spring. Plant in full sun. Use in Zones 6-9.