When I first planted aromatic aster, I sniffed it on a regular basis. Not because it smelled good, but because it didn’t smell at all. I just couldn’t believe my aromatic aster lacked aroma. The plant won me over, though, with its lovely, dainty habit and tiny blue-purple blossoms.
Other points in its favor: It’s drought tolerant and needs little care, and it blooms in late summer and early fall, like other asters. As it turns out, it wasn’t the plant that was deficient; it was my education. The leaves, not the flowers, are aromatic. Crush or rub them for a somewhat minty fragrance.
Common name: Aromatic aster, fragrant aster
Botanical name: Symphyotrichum oblongifolium (syn. Aster oblongifolius and A. oblongifolium)
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 3 to 8
Height: 1 to 3 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Prefers well-drained soil but tolerates poor soil.
• Moisture: Medium to dry
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed
Pests and diseases
• Vulnerable to powdery mildew, gray mold, white smut, and aster yellows.
• Common pests include slugs, snails, and aphids.
• S. oblongifolium attracts birds and butterflies.
• Though aromatic aster is not a tall plant, the weight of blooms may pull taller stems over unless they have a little support.
• Use aromatic aster in prairie settings or meadows, in large rock gardens, or in a mixed border.
• Plant it with ornamental grasses, sedum, black-eyed Susan, and other asters.
• S. oblongifolium is not an aggressive plant, but it might reseed and spread slowly.
• Blue-purple blooms have yellow centers and are about 1 inch across. Leaves are small, narrow, toothless, and oblong.
• S. oblongifolium ‘Dream of Beauty’ has pink flowers with orange centers. It grows about 1 foot tall and twice as wide.
• The blooms of S. oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ are blue-purple with yellow centers.
• S. oblongifolium ‘October Skies’ has light lavender-blue flowers.
All in the family
• Most species in the genus Symphyotrichum (formerly Aster) are native to North America, although some are also found in Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and the West Indies.
• Two of the most popular aster species are New England aster (S. novae-angliae) and New York aster (S. novi-belgii). Dozens of cultivars have been developed from these two species alone.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Symphyotrichum oblongifolium courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)