Attract Butterflies with Late Asters

Late-blooming asters will attract butterflies to your garden throughout the end of summer and into fall.

The leaves may have started to change and the days are growing shorter, but in many areas, there are still butterflies around. Because nectar flowers become a little harder for them to find in the fall, anyone who makes a special effort to attract butterflies in September and October is likely to be rewarded with plenty of fluttering visitors. Asters are an excellent late-blooming nectar plant, with a variety of species suited to any garden.

Attract Butterflies with Aster Charlene G 2Courtesy Charlene G.
Charlene G. Migrating monarchs enjoying New York Aster ‘Magic Purple’ in the fall.

Many native asters are available, including New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii), New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), and Climbing Carolina Aster (Ampelaster carolinianus). These can be great choices in gardens in their native ranges, since they’re perfectly suited to the climate and growing conditions. The aster shown here is a cultivar of New York Aster, known as ‘Magic Purple’, which grows up to five feet tall under the right conditions. It attracts late butterflies in droves, and is a great way to to support migrating monarchs along their journey.

Attract Butterflies with Aster Charlene GCharlene G.
Charlene G. This New York Aster is nearly hidden under a cloud of Clouded Sulphurs!

On a technical note, the New World asters, including our common native aster species, have been separated from their Old World cousins in recent years. That means their Latin genus names have changed from Aster to a variety of other genus names, including Symphyotrichum. However, their common names remain the same, and they are often still referred to by their former aster species names as well, so don’t be surprised to see a variety of botanical names applied to these plants. When it comes to attracting butterflies, they continue to be the same excellent nectar plants they’ve always been!

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.