A Blue Star Is Born

Amsonia tabernaemontana, that is, commonly known as Blue Star because of its star-shaped blue flowers in May and June.

Blue Star
Blue Star in my front garden

This is a plant that starts out small but gets quite hefty with time. The one in the front gets almost four feet high and three feet across. Flopping can be a problem after the flowers are done, and I have tried various strategies to keep this guy reasonably upright. Currently I am using a metal rod and green twine.

Other than flopping, this is a plant that requires very little attention. Blue Star has a native range that stretches from Massachussets to Illinois and Kansas, south to Florida and Texas.

Blue Star: A closer look.
Blue Star: A closer look.

Before planting this Blue Star, you should feel pretty confident about where you are putting it. After a couple of years it shall not be moved, as the song says.

Once the flowers are done, the Blue Star foliage adds a finely textured element to the flowering border. The leaves are narrow and almost willow-like.

Blue Star 'Blue Ice'
Blue Star ‘Blue Ice’

Blue Star grows well in full sun or part shade. A Blue Β Star variety, ‘Blue Ice’, is growing in my lightly shaded back garden. This variety is much more compact. The flowers are a deeper lavender blue, as opposed to the light sky blue of the species. These are newer plants and have not yet achieved their full size.

A. tabernaemontana should not be confused with Arkansas Blue Star, A. hubrichtii. This plant has even finer foliage, almost needle-like, and striking fall color. Some claim that A. tabernaemontana also have strong fall color but that has not been my experience.

Do you have Blue Star or Arkansas Blue Star in your garden?

36 Comments on “A Blue Star Is Born

  1. I have Arkansas Bluestar and love it…but you’re totally right…it probably took 3 years to really make an impact…but once they hit that point, they are so striking.

  2. This is another plant that’s new to me. The leaves remind me of Willowherb (Epilobium). The flowers are very pretty… how long does it flower for?

  3. First thing I thought when I saw your amsonia was how bushy your looks comparing to mine. I would not say mine is floppy but certainly it is more relaxed. I like yours, I’d also like to see the structure you said you’re using.
    I grow my plants in a dry semi shaded spot of the garden and in fall I can see the yellow colouring. Maybe they need to suffer a little bit. I like them to self seed discretely around too.

    • I just stuck a metal rod alongside the plant, leaning it in so that it was hidden by the foliage. Then I tied some green twine to it and circled the plant. It’s fairly unobtrusive and is working so far, but if we get a heavy rain it may be inadequate.

  4. I have had this plant on my wish list for a while and finally added three Arkansas Blue Star to my garden this year. Looking forward to them filling in!

  5. What a mouthful name! No, I don’t have any such plants in my garden. I can imagine its beauty by looking at your picture. It must be a sight to see so many blue flowers on a plant.

  6. Great profile of a beautiful (and not very common) plant. I grow all three — tabernaemontana, hubrichtii and several Blue Ice. The low, tidy Blue Ice have almost royal purple flowers for me, and they go on forever, unlike the taller amsonias that only bloom briefly. Like you, I enjoy the foliage as much as any flowers. Beautiful plants.

    (the two taller amsonias reseed all over the place at their bases. Very prolific. Blue Ice does not. Do you get multitudes of seedlings?)

    • The tabernaemontana blooms for about six weeks in my garden. Funny, I don’t have a problem with resseding. Not yet, anyhow.

  7. I’ve been growing A. hubrichtii for years. It would prefer more sun than it gets in my mostly part sun garden but with a little support it does well. At a plant sale this spring I took a chance on an A. tabernaemontana cultival called ‘Short Stack’ which is supposed to stay very compact. So far it appears to be a keeper but I’ll wait til next spring to make a full report.

  8. I don’t have it, but it’s definitely a beauty! I’ve seen it around town. The foliage and the way it holds the blooms is kind of interesting, too.

  9. I want one, now I can’t remember if I had one, and it didn’t make it years ago..or if it was on my wish list.

    Yours is stunning.

    Jen

  10. Of course you know i am biased and attracted to blue flowers, because they are not common with us in the tropics. But I am wondering what the species tabernaemontana means to the taxonomists (i need to search that), because the succulent Kalanchoe has the same species name.

  11. Such a great plant. After bloom, I hack mine back because it gets so unruly.

  12. Thanks for all the info, a beautiful plant, but not for my garden I think, I don’t have room for any more monster plants, I am looking for either very small plants or tall thin plants with a mimimum of footprint so I can squeeze them in between other plants in my already overfilled garden πŸ™‚

  13. I love these plants. I’m not sure how to classify the ones I have. They seem to be some kind of hybrid with leaves a little broader than A. hubrichtii, but not as broad as A. tabernaemontana, and with flowers that look more like hubrichtii. (They do get a nice gold color, fading to wheat, in the fall.) The first one I bought was sold as A. tabernaemontana, and the second was sold as A. hubrichtii. Whatever, they are, they provide a substantial presence in the garden and remain upright and attractive long after they have stopped blooming. The one I planted in 2004 is now 4′ in diameter.

  14. I have never grown ammonia, but if it grows in Florida, it might do well here. Yours is lovely; I like its shrubby appearance.

  15. I don’t have a blue star. I have never seen them before. Very pretty. I do have those star weeds! I’d rather have a blue star for sure. πŸ™‚

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