Attract Butterflies with Stokes’ Aster
The large flower heads of native Stokes' Aster will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.
Every other year, I make a trip to Ohio to visit family. It’s always nice to head up there during the summer and check out everyone’s gardens, which seem to be making up for suffering through miserable winter months of snow and ice by flowering as profusely as possible during the time they have available. I have a habit of buying plants for the people that I visit, and it’s fun to come back a few years later and see how those plants are doing in their gardens. This year, I was thrilled to see that the Stokes’ Aster I bought my mother a couple of years ago is absolutely thriving.
Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis) is native to the Southeastern U.S., but it can survive winters to zone 5 with a little extra mulching. This drought-tolerant native plant likes well-drained soil and lots of sun, though it will also take some shade the further south it’s planted. The large blooms appear in mid-summer, and deadheading will ensure this plant continues to flower for quite some time. The more flowers the better, because Stokes’ Aster blooms attract butterflies and hummingbirds like crazy! I watched one hummingbird spend about 5 minutes visiting the Stokes’ Aster shown here one morning (but of course my camera was nowhere nearby). The flowers close at night and reopen with the morning sun, ready to greet the day and bring more wildlife to your garden!
Stokes’ Aster should be divided every few years to keep the plant healthy and encourage flowering. It can be started from seed as well – allow the last flowers in early fall to set seed rather than deadheading. There are a variety of cultivars available, including some with pink and white blooms, but ‘Blue Danube’ (shown here) is my personal favorite for its large lavender flowers that attract butterflies for weeks in the summer.