Plant of the Month: California aster

With its bright yellow round center and narrow leaves, the California aster is perfect for a game of “loves me, loves me not.” A member of the Asteraceae family, which includes daisies and sunflowers, it must have been a favorite of the flower power era.

Aster chilensis is native to California (not to Chile as its Latin name suggests) and grows in a variety of habitats including grasslands, meadows, salt marshes and coastal dunes. It is also known as Symphyotricum chilensis, and is a fast growing, ground covering shrub that can reach up to three feet in height. Because of its hardiness and ability to grow steadfastly, these plants can be used in erosion control to help stabilize slopes. If not managed, the plant can become invasive.

This perennial shrub boasts attractive pale lavender or light pink flowers irresistible to butterflies. The drought-tolerant California aster thrives in open spaces with part shade and full sun, and blooms late summer through fall. Native to our arid region, it needs only a thorough watering once a month when established. Be sure to prune to the ground after flowering in the fall to reappear in late winter or early spring. The seeds for this plant are not dormant, so they can be planted any time of the year, but perfect conditions are in the spring when soils are moist and temperatures are mild.

To learn more about the California aster click here.

For tips on growing plants that are disease and pathogen free, see guidance here and here.

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