Autumn is a beautiful time to watch the colors of leaves change, but most people don’t think much about flowers. Pollinators are still busy this time of year. Some pollinators are migrating, like the monarch butterfly. Bees, on the other hand, are busily preparing for winter. So flowers are still important in autumn!
When you are planting your garden, it is important to think about what time the flowers you are planting will bloom so that you give pollinators food— not just in spring but in summer and into the autumn months.
At the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, we are seeing lots of bees and butterflies flocking to a specific Aster called Fragrant Aster or Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium formerly known as Aster oblongifolius). This delicate purple flower is native to the Ozarks, so it is a familiar plant to the pollinators here. They recognize this flower and swarm it in autumn when so few plants are blooming. The plant has small fragrant leaves and lovely ray florets. It’s bloom is less than 1 inch wide with lavender pedals and a yellow center.
This Aster is hardy and drought resistant. It likes sandy, well drained soil but can also grow in clay soil or just about anywhere. It likes full sun but can tolerate partial shade. In other words, it is a very easy native plant to grow. It can, however, reseed itself and spread through its rhizomes. Nevertheless, we consider it a “well-behaved” native plant, because it is easy to pull up and weed out of unwanted areas. As it grows, the plant will create a 2.5ft X 2.5ft bush-like cluster that will bloom from early October until the first frost.
So consider planting this late blooming Aster in your garden to assist migrating monarchs and busy bees who pollinate so much of the food we eat!
Education & Community Outreach Coordinator