New England Aster

Late Nectar Source for Migrating Monarch Butterflies and More

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae common names: Aster novae-angliae, Fall aster, New England aster, Purple aster, thick-leaved aster

New England Asters are a late blooming fall nectar source for migrating monarchs, bees, and other beneficial pollinators
Late Nectar Source for Monarch Migration

New England Aster Plant Specs

  • Perennial: USDA hardiness zones 3-8 (lows -40 °C or -40 °F)
  • Native Plant: Most of United States and Canada (Al, Ar, Co, Ct, De, DC, Ga, Ia, Il, In, Ks, Ky, Ma, Md, Me, Mi, Mn, Mo, Ms, Mt, Ne, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NM, NY, Oh, Ok, Or, Pa, Ri, SC, SD, Tn, Ut, Vt, Va, Wa, WV, Wi, Wy, BC, MB, NB, NS, ON, QC
  • Full sun to light shade
  • Prefers moist, well draining, rich soils but can grow in a variety of soil conditions including clay soil
  • Height: 4-6 feet
  • Spacing: 2 to 3 ft
  • Flowers: dish-shaped violet to purple flowers with contrasting yellow centers, but also has variations in pink or white
  • Lanceolate Shape Leaves: long and narrow tapering to a point, green, visible midrib
  • Blooms late summer to early fall: Late August-October
  • Shorter varieties include Purple Dome and September Ruby
new england aster leaves
New England Aster Leaves

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae Pros

New England Aster flowers are also available in pink
September Ruby
  • Top Native Plants during late monarch migration
  • Long lasting blooms – bursting blooms for up to 6 weeks
  • Height makes it easy to view butterflies feeding
  • Large flowers are showier than other small aster flowers
  • Host and Nectar Plant for Pearl Crescent Butterfly
  • Pest, deer, and disease resistant

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae Cons

  • Doesn’t bloom until late summer, but worth the wait
  • Tall stalks can require staking
  • Spring planted seeds and small plants won’t flower first year
  • Monarchs are often harassed by the bounty of bees on these plants and get pushed off flowers. By planting Mexican sunflower close by, monarchs can nectar in peace

New England Aster Plant Propagation

  • Sow seeds directly outside in fall- November is a good option for most regions
  • Start seeds indoors before final frost
  • Sow seeds directly after final frost
  • Root Cuttings in spring or fall- insert stem cuttings into well-draining medium like perlite, vermiculite, or potting soil. Keep soil moist and in indirect light or under grow lights. Rooting typically take a few weeks
  • Divide plants in spring…fall division could be too late for transplants
  • Winter sowing is a good option for controlling plant placement

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae Growing Tips

Taller New England Aster plants will sometimes need staking to avoid flopping over from the flower weight
Stake or Flower Flop?
  • Prune early in the season to encourage bushier plant growth. Pruning August and later will sacrifice aster flowers
  • Once your asters eclipse 4 feet, use stakes and plant support clips to keep the stalks from flopping over, allowing you to better see the butterfly and bee feeding frenzy.
  • Symphyotrichum novae-angliae can be planted/divided in spring or fall…we recommend spring due to the ultra-late bloom time.
  • Once established, you can add plants through division and seeding.
  • Cut Stems back- grow bushier plants that won’t require staking. Cut stems back 1/3 to 1/2 earlier in the season (not past mid-July) to avoid cutting off fall blooms.

Pollinator Plus

Besides monarchs, new england asters are popular with black swallowtails, bumble bees, honey bees, moths, painted lady butterfly, pearl crescent, red admirals, sulphur butterflies

Please comment below if you’ve seen other butterflies sipping nectar from New England asters. This type of info is rarely listed by those with first-hand experience, so your input can help others make the best decisions for their precious garden space.

If you have monarchs in your area or just traveling through, this native aster rates as a must-plant to support the monarch migration and other late pollinators.

Buy Symphyotrichum novae-angliae Plant and Seeds

Always purchase seeds and plants by botanical (scientific) name. if you simply search for aster flowers, that could mislead you to purchase the wrong plant. place plant orders through the following links:

  1. Symphyotrichum novae-angliae Plants and Seeds from JB
  2. New England Asters from Etsy

    Looking for alternative purple-blooming nectar plants? Try…
  3. 7 Purple Butterfly Flowers

Find More Purple Flower Favorites on our Butterfly Plants Page

Please post below if you have any questions or comments about growing
New England Asters in your butterfly garden:
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One Comment

  1. Many years ago I bought 1 or 2 New England asters. I think they were getting too much shade from a huge pine tree in my front yard so I eventually moved them. They grew but didn’t flourish until I moved them. I don’t cut certain plants back in fall, I leave them for the birds to pick the seeds and for cover for other critters. Between the birds and wind blowing seeds around, I now have asters all over my yard that I never planted (just like common milkweed lol). Since they’re usually some of the last flowering plants I have I love this! Most I cut back by a 1/3 to 1/2 in summer (if you do this, be sure to keep them watered or they may die out from stress…lesson learned), but some I leave tall. In late summer/fall they’re absolutely covered with bumble bees, other bees and all kinds of butterflies including monarchs. This year my Mexican torch flower didn’t do very well so later the asters were my preferred plants for releasing monarchs on to feed before flying off. Although they did tend to spread like crazy over the years they’re very easy to pull or dig out especially if you catch them when smaller. Transplant them, give them away, compost them if they’re taking over. Although they do tend to get “leggy” and lose their lower leaves as the season wears on, I don’t mind because I focus on the flowers and everything that is enjoying them. You could plant smaller shrubby-type plants to hide the lower plant. I live in NW Illinois, zone 5A, and they do like some extra water during dry spells.

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