A wonderful aster for the South

Douglas Hunt
by Douglas Hunt
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.
Climbing aster provides a mass of blooms relished by bees.
Close-up of the flowers.
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4 of 19 comments
  • Maureen O'Donovan Maureen O'Donovan on Nov 18, 2013
    Beautiful! They remind me of an ice plant. I had bought one, and before you knew it, had it lining the whole length of my stone retaining wall in Kennesaw, Ga (which runs the length of my back yard). Which reminds me, I meant to bring a cutting back the last time I went down there to see how it would grow up here in Ohio.

    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Nov 19, 2013
      @Maureen O'Donovan I suspect it would be too cold in Ohio, but perhaps if you had a very sheltered spot. You have nothing to lose by trying!

  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Feb 04, 2014
    Beautiful. I plan on planting some if I can find the right spot. If Climbing aster is not usually sold as a potted plant, did you start as seed? Thanks for sharing.

    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Feb 04, 2014
      @Liliana Wells I found it as a potted plant, Liliana. Although I have it in a normal garden setting, it will take a very wet situation. I was kayaking recently and say it growing IN the water.