A wonderful aster for the South
When I moved from New York to Florida I thought one of the plants I would surely have to leave behind was the beloved aster. And it is true that the classic New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) will only do well to about zone 8. So I was delighted to discover the climbing aster (Ampelaster carolinianus), which is native to much of Florida, as well as North and South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. (The taxonomy of asters has become ridiculously confusing: You will also find this plant listed as Symphyotrichum carolinianum). As its name suggests, this is an aster that climbs, or scrambles. It doesn't have tendrils though, so it needs something to support it, but does a very good job of weaving itself through a chain-link fence, for example. When happy, it can get 10 feet high. It has a tendency to get a little woody, so it's a good idea to cut it back hard in late winter or early spring, although, truth be told, I just let mine go. It's supposed to favor wet sites, but mine is growing in my very sandy soil and gets no supplemental watering. The color seems variable depending on the site, from a whitish pink to a pale purple-pink, as mine is. This aster starts blooming late (early November for me) and continues through December, with the occasional bloom popping up throughout the year. It is far and away the best biggest attractor of bees I have in my garden, which, as far as I'm concerned, is reason enough to plant it.