I’ve long used Asters in our landscape designs to extend the garden season into fall. One of the most popular Asters has to be Aster ‘Purple Dome’. It’s also a plant that continues to frustrate me. This a the common growth habit of Aster ‘Purple Dome’.
Even with all those flower buds, it’s hard to get excited about this plant! Year after year, the lower foliage rots away yet it’s one of the most popular Asters out there. Sure, you can hide the lower foliage by placing a smaller plant around its base but why bother? I’m all about easy plants, That got me thinking. What other varieties are out there that would give a similar flower display, yet also provide better disease resistance/growth habit? There are literally hundreds of closely related Asters. There had to be some that were better than this. Isn’t this why we use natives? Because they are easy and take care of themselves?
One native Aster we’ve been trialing for 2 years now is Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies,’. In our gardens, it has been a consistent bloomer with relatively no fungus. Although the height of each plant is similar, ‘October Skies’ being slightly taller, ‘October Skies’ has a much bushier growth habit than ‘Purple Dome’. Each plant will occupy quite a bit more real estate.
If you are also tired of ‘Purple Dome’, I suggest you start experimenting with other varieties. We’ve just started experimenting and have already found a group that are worth a more in depth look. Happy gardening.