Sunday, November 15, 2009

Elliott's aster - Symphyotrichum elliottii

Elliott's aster (Symphyotrichum elliottii) is found throughout nearly all Florida, except the western region of the Panhandle.  It is also found in much of the states that comprise the Southeastern Coastal Plain.  This is an aster of wetland habitats and is extemely common in roadside ditches where moisture levels are a bit higher than the surroundings and ample sunlight is available. 
Elliott's aster is a robust plant that often stands more than 4 feet tall by blooming time.  It is also an aggressive suckering plant and rapidly fills in every available open space if conditions are to its liking.  Its size and behavior allow it to outcompete smaller neighbors in a mixed planting area. For those reasons, it is not a well-behaved plant for the home garden unless it can be contained and used in single-species plantings.
But, despite its limitations, elliott's aster is a marvelous bloomer.  Flowering occurs in late fall and the entire crown of each stem is a mass of light lavender (sometimes white) blooms.  Individual flowers are more than 1 inch across and they have some fragrance besides.  For those reasons, it is one of the best asters for butterflies and other pollinators.  Watch a roadside in late fall where this aster is blooming and you will be amazed at how many different butterflies, bees and the like are visiting.
If you wish to use this beautiful aster  in a home landscape, give it lots of light and plenty of moisture - especially during the summer and fall leading up to its flowering season.  Given too much shade, it will flop over and be a mess.  You can confine it easiest by growing it in a pot and putting it in a wet to moist location where the moisture will wick upwards into the potting soil.  But, be prepared even here with suckers escaping from the holes in the sides and bottom of your pots...
Elliott's aster is only rarely grown commercially by Florida native nurseries.  It is not a plant for everyone, but if you have a location for it, it will reward you many times over with its amazing show of color and scent.


  1. Are there any other Symphyotrichum's that have the same sort of morphology as Elliott's Aster? I believe we have this one growing here and it is stunning. Up to 4 feet tall with awesome purple blooms that seem to change color as they bloom. What is the most distinguishing characteristic for identification of this plant?

  2. Good question....... Elliot's is pretty distictive and hard to confuse with most anything else in this part of the world. It suckers profusely so it generally occurs in thick stands which are beautiful this time of year when in bloom. The stalks are rather thick for an aster and upright. It rarely falls over or bends over much - except when the weight of the flowers are great. The flowers do, in fact, change color over time - a trait I have not seen much in any of the others except for a limited extent in climbing aster - which is vinelike and not upright. I have seen white-colored forms, but most are lavender of varying shades and they turn pinkish to almost brownish as they mature. Many many flowers at the top of the stalk. Most common in roadside ditches where water collects a bit more and along the edges of marshes, streams, ponds etc.

    Hope this helps.


Please let me know if this site and the various postings have been useful to you.