Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bees on Georgia Aster

Georgia Aster, Symphyotrichum georgianum, is one of the last asters to bloom. Flowers open right when the leaves start to fall around October into November. Presumably the purple flowers are better contrasted with yellow leaves that accumulate in the foliage. Despite the common name of, Georgia Aster, this species is fairly cold hardy and can grow well into zone 5. Where it occurs in the wild it's locally threatened and uncommon, but several nurseries have started carrying the species and it can be bought by mail order.

For the most part this plant spreads by forming a clump, similar to Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, with new stems coming more and more each year in an outward pattern. Plants can be divided every few years or can be started by seed. Cuttings are probably easy to root too so the fact that this uncommon species is sold in nurseries is more forgivable. It's unlikely that plants are being stolen from the wild.

This past year I planted two plugs of this plant and at least one grew well enough to flower. The other I've lost track of among other plants but I assume it's doing fair. I intend to buy more of these this year, hopefully from a different nursery to ensure genetic diversity. I noticed my New England Asters didn't start reproducing by seed until I planted more than one. It's likely members of this genus benefit from cross-pollination to spread by seeds. A tip I learned while touring New Moon Nursery is you might as well try getting a stem or two to root right while they're young. Plugs often have too much green growth to roots as it is; they'll likely flower at the wrong time of year anyhow and it's beneficial for small plants if these buds are removed. Smaller cuttings survive better than bigger ones because it's the roots that hydrate all the growth above.