Aster ericoides, commonly known as White Heath Aster, is a short, bushy perennial that displays sprays of small daisy-like flowers for late season color.
It is an upright branching rhizomatous plant which, when in full bloom, is densely packed with dainty flowers to make the entire plant appear white.
It also spreads from rhizomes making it an ideal ground cover plant.
The huge blooms of tiny white flowers with yellow stamen attract butterflies, bees and other insects throughout the season to help make any space a haven for natural life.
The foliage of Aster ericoides has a spiky appearance but is soft to the touch.
The leaves point outwards from the stem in a needle-like fashion, adding interest and form to the garden in the months before flowering.
Aster ericoides is commonly seen in beds and borders due to its ability to spread and act as ground cover.
This helps to deter weeds and fills the garden with lots of attractive flowers. It is also a great addition to rockeries or dry spots. Easy to maintain, it requires little in the way of maintenance and is resistant to mildew as well as most common pests and diseases.
Aster ericoides is the perfect plant to fill gaps and enhance the beauty of some of your brightly colored border dwellers which may require more attention to realize their full potential.
Aster ericoides is native to North America and is a hardy plant that will thrive in most climates.
Aster ericoides care
Aster ericoides is a low maintenance perennial that requires little more than full sun and free-draining soil. Watering should be kept to a minimum and the application of organic matter a couple of times a year will provide all the nutrients it needs. It tolerates high temperatures and varying levels of humidity, and once established, is unlikely to suffer significant harm from pests and diseases.
Where to grow your Aster ericoides
Aster ericoides’ natural habitat is dry prairies, savannas, limestone glades, dry rocky woods, and pastures. It likes to spread and is hardy so can often be found on roadsides and by railways.
This means you can plant it in pretty much any area of your garden as long as the soil drains well. Loamy or sandy soils are recommended, but it will struggle in clay-based soil.
For optimal growth, though, Aster ericoides should be placed in an area of full sun. It will grow in shaded areas but will produce fewer flowers.
It is a good choice for cottage gardens or areas where you want to replicate a meadow or wildlife garden.
How to Care for Aster ericoides
Under normal conditions, there is no need to water Aster ericoides. The plant must be placed in well-draining soil and will tolerate dry spells and droughts.
If the soil is allowed to become soggy, you will quickly see signs of ill-health in your plant.
When planted in a border to provide ground cover, you are advised to water thoroughly once a week rather than just sprinkling each day.
Your watering regime will depend on the amount of rainfall and you should only really need to water your Aster ericoides during dry spells.
One of the beauties of this plant is that it is very self-sufficient and therefore requires little maintenance, so only intervene when necessary.
If you are unsure, check the moisture level in the soil to determine whether manual watering is required.
When manual watering is necessary, do it in the morning or late in the afternoon so that excess water has sufficient opportunity to dry before nightfall.
Moisture on the leaves overnight can cause rot or fungal infections.
Aster ericoides is a sun-loving plant that enjoys temperatures of 80-90 °F (27-32°C). As an outdoor perennial, it will tolerate cooler spells but will not thrive until temperatures rise again.
If you want to protect your plants over winter, you can supply an extra layer of compost in late fall to help protect them from frost.
This will benefit them by giving a boost at the start of the next growing season but is not essential. Remember, Aster ericoides grow readily on roadsides so it will survive harsh conditions unaided.
Aster ericoides will cope with usual humidity fluctuations. If you live in an area that gets particularly high or low levels of humidity you may find that it doesn’t grow so well, but generally speaking, this is a plant that will not be adversely affected by humidity levels.
Aster ericoides grow best in rich soil, well-drained soil. Applying mulch over winter can help protect the plants from frost and also fertilize the soil.
Good quality decomposed compost or manure around the base of each plant will provide a nutrient boost at the start of the following spring.
Spreading compost across the soil in late fall or early winter is recommended as this will encourage earthworms to drag it down into the soil and improve it with little effort on your part.
This will aid your plants in spreading once the new growing season arrives. Additional compost can be applied in spring if required.
Aster ericoides naturally grow in clumps so air circulation is difficult to control. The leaves and flowers produced by the plant are quite thin and allow air to circulate without manual intervention.
The most important consideration for gardeners in terms of the flow of air around Aster ericoides is positioning.
Plants should be placed in an area in full sun or perhaps partial shade and young plants should be spaced 30cm apart. If placed in a shaded area where the air becomes stagnant, your plants will suffer.
Aster ericoides will spread naturally to form clumps. It does this by growing new plants from rhizomes which is why it is good for ground cover.
Properly cared for, it will produce high volumes of flowers, and the seeds are pollinated by the vast numbers of insects attracted to it.
Due to these two highly effective methods of propagation, Aster ericoides is ideal for wildlife gardens and cottage gardens.
But this can also be a curse as you can find this plant cropping up in areas of your garden where you don’t want it.
To keep your plants in optimum health, it’s advisable to divide them every three years. The division should ideally be done in late fall after your plants have stopped flowering, but it can also be done in early spring if necessary.
To divide the plants, take a clean, sharp knife and separate them at the root. Take 5-8cm of root and remove it with a smooth cut.
Once you have your ‘new’ plant, most of the foliage should be removed. Leave a few inches (centimeters) of the stem but no more than that.
You want the plant to concentrate its energy on establishing strong roots. If this is successful, a strong, healthy plant will follow.
The cutting can then be replanted in another area. This will help to rejuvenate your plants and encourage healthy blooms.
If you choose to grow Aster ericoides from seed, you can do so by collecting seeds at the end of its flowering season when you deadhead your plant.
Alternatively, you can buy seeds from most gardening centers.
For best results, sow indoors in trays. Place the seeds 0.5cm deep in compost and keep them warm. The ideal temperature is between 60-68°F (16-20°C) and this can often be achieved by placing the trays on a windowsill where they will get plenty of sunlight.
Make sure you keep the compost moist but not sodden. Seedlings should begin to appear within 14-21 days.
Once the seeds are germinated, you can move them to a cooler position but it’s important to make sure they still get plenty of sunlight.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle, transfer them to pots and then harden them off before planting out.
Hardening off usually takes 2-3 weeks and as Aster ericoides are hardy plants, your seedlings should be ok to plant after around 2 weeks.
Seedlings sown indoors must be hardened off to acclimatize before they are transferred to the garden.
Hardening off changes the leaf structure of the plant to make it more able to deal with the extremes of weather it will be subjected to once outside.
This process is done in stages. First of all, the seedlings should be moved to a cooler area of the home. After a few days, you can begin to place your pots outside during the day.
At the start of the second week, provided there is no risk of frost, your plants can be left outside, covered, overnight.
Towards the end of the second week, you can leave them out overnight without a covering. If they display no adverse effects to being left out, they can then be transferred to their bed or border after 3-4 nights.
When planting out, space your seedlings around 30cm apart.
If sowing directly outside, make sure you wait until the last frost has gone, then sow seeds into well prepared, loose soil which contains a good dose of organic matter and has already been watered.
Seeds should be sown at a depth of around 0.2 inches (0.5cm). Once seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out leaving 12 inches (30cm) between each one. New plants should flower in their second or third year.
Common problems with Aster ericoides
Aster ericoides is a hardy plant that is not generally susceptible to pests and diseases. Your choice of location is key to giving your plants the chance to thrive as they would in their natural habitat.
If they are placed in an area where they would not naturally flourish, Aster ericoides can suffer.
Most Aster plant diseases are mainly superficial, but left untreated they can lead to further problems.
Common problems are rust and powdery mildew which can be treated with fungicide available from any garden center.
More serious diseases are root rot, wilt, footrot, and botrytis blight. All of these are a result of the soil being too wet.
This can be avoided by making sure the soil is well-drained and that your Aster ericoides are planted in full sun. When it comes to watering, less is more. Aster ericoides will cope with drought far better than it will with sodden soil.
Pests such as spider mites and lace bugs can also cause problems. It is unlikely that they will kill the plant, but they can cause an unhealthy appearance.
To avoid insect infestations, keep the leaves dry and weed regularly until the Aster ericoides have covered the ground naturally. Infestations can be dealt with using any standard insecticide.
Frequently asked questions about Aster ericoides
Why is my Aster ericoides dying?
Aster ericoides will tolerate most soil conditions but soil that is too wet will cause root rot and wilt. It might be that you are watering your plants too often or too much. Check how moist the soil is before you water and if you are in any doubt, err on the side of caution. If your soil is very clayey it will not drain well. You can try adding sand, organic matter, or soil improver or you can relocate your plants to a more suitable spot.
Do I need to deadhead my Aster ericoides?
Removing dead heads allows plants to expend their energy on producing new flowers so will allow them to flourish. It will also prevent seeds from spreading to areas where you don’t want Aster ericoides to grow.
Why is my Aster ericoides not blooming?
Young Aster ericoides will not usually bloom until their second or third year. If your plants are immature or if they were very small when you acquired them, you may just need to be patient. In older plants, the issue is more likely to be too much nitrogen. All plants require nitrogen to promote photosynthesis, but Asters are hardy plants with weed-like powers of survival. They don’t require much additional nitrogen, especially if you add organic matter to your soil. Excess nitrogen will cause Aster ericoides to increase the rate of stem and leaf growth at the expense of the beautiful flowers you expect from it.
Aster ericoides are hardy perennials that cover the ground, display wonderful blooms, and require minimal maintenance.
It is a great addition to any border and will thrive in any free-draining soil. As a late bloomer, it provides color into the fall, and mature plants may even bloom in early summer or spring so you can enjoy them throughout the growing season.
Provided that you give them plenty of sunshine and don’t allow the soil to become too wet, these plants will add vibrancy to your garden for many years to come.
They are easy to propagate by division and can be used all around your garden or given to friends and family.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.