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.