If an aster isn’t really an aster, but it looks like one and acts like one, do you still plant it? You do if it’s hairy golden aster, also known as hairy false golden aster, an imposter who can give any New England aster a run for the money. Prairie native Heterotheca villosa, a cousin of garden asters, carries its bright yellow blossoms for months, just like a true aster, and has the same tolerance for tough conditions. Narrow, silver-green, slightly fuzzy leaves chase the small, 1-inch flowers up sturdy stems. This nonaster will make you happy that you chose to give this unshaven imposter a home.
Common name: Hairy golden aster, hairy false golden aster
Botanical name: Heterotheca villosa (formerly Chrysopsis villosa)
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 4 to 10
Height: 1 to 4 feet
· Sun: Full sun
· Soil: Average, well-drained. Tolerates slightly acidic and slightly alkaline soil.
· Moisture: Average to dry. Some drought tolerance.
· Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the ground.
· Pruning: None needed
· Fertilizer: None needed
· By seed
Pests and diseases
· Highlight the bright yellow of Heterotheca villosa by planting it near contrasting colors; combine it with purple, pink, and white asters for a brilliant autumn bed.
· Use hairy golden aster for a prairie garden, the back of a rock garden, or to reclaim a bleak dry patch in your yard. In the wild it’s often found in dry, sandy, or rocky areas.
· Hairy golden aster will attract butterflies.
· None available
All in the family
· There is another native golden aster, Heterotheca camporum, that’s almost identical to H. villosa, and both species are sometimes called by the same common name: hairy golden aster (although H. camporum is also known as prairie golden aster, or simply golden aster). Adding to the confusion, many sources still use a different genus name, Chrysopsis, for both species.
· Although H. villosa isn’t really an aster, it strongly resembles its more common cousin, and is of course in the Aster family.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo by Tracy Poser)