New England Aster is a Butterfly Magnet!
New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, formerly Aster novae-angliae) is a beautiful native garden plant that serves as both a host plant and a nectar plant. Pearl Crescent butterflies use this Aster as a host plant while many butterflies enjoy nectaring from its flowers.
New England Aster Characteristics
New England Aster is native to most of the US and into Canada with the exceptions being the deep South, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada. It is a non-invasive perennial that is hardy in about zones 3-8.
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae can grow from 2-6 feet tall and brings a burst of rich color in the fall (for around 2 months) in tones of blue/purple/lavendar.
The Butterflies Like it!
It is quite common to find these asters in a list of plants that attract butterflies. It is in bloom around the time that the Monarchs are headed south and they, along with many other butterflies, will frequent the flowers to sip some nectar.
Asters have a special relationship with Pearl Crescent butterflies (and Northern Crescents which are very similar to Pearl Crescents), since it is their host plant. Pearl/Northern Crescent caterpillars can eat several types of asters (not all) but New England Aster is one of their preferred species along with lance-leaved aster.
Pearl and Northern Crescent butterflies are actually one of the most common and widespread butterflies in North America with the only exception being the far West coast.
Eggs are laid in masses of around 60-100 on the underside of a leaf and are are light green in color so they are hard to see!
New England Aster Growth Conditions
New England Aster likes full or partial sun and may benefit from partial sun in the south. It prefers moist to average water conditions but is drought tolerant once established. In many conditions it will self-seed although is does not in our southern garden.
Propagating New England Aster, Seed or Division
This aster can be propagated with seed or division. It is healthy for the plant to divide it every 2-3 years.
The seeds need to be fall-planted for spring growth or cold-stratified for 60 days before planting in the spring. They will take an additional 21-45 days to germinate once planted. Plant New England Aster seeds on the soil surface and just lightly cover (about 1/8 inch). Keep the seeds moist at a temperature around 65-75°F.
Why Buy New England Aster Seeds and Plants
New England Aster is a popular plant for all the right reasons: native, hardy, showy, attracts butterflies, bees, and songbirds, and it makes a great cut flower if the butterflies will share some!