Stokes Asters Drought Tolerant Summer Flowers

Stokes’ Aster, Stokesia laevis, is native to the Southern US, from North Carolina to Louisiana, where they grow in wetlands, bottomlands, and ditches. The Stokesia Blue Frills in the photo is in its third year in our garden, without winter protection.  

Stokesia laevis plants are cold hardy in zones 5 to 9 and a light winter mulch will ensure their return the following spring.

The blue flower varieties are the most commonly grown by gardens and gardeners although there are pink, purple and white varieties available. Stokes’ Asters bloom in June and July in full sun. Since they spread only to one or one-and-a-half feet wide, they are ideal for the front of a shrub bed. 

Stokes’ Asters are easy to grow in average soil with medium moisture. They will tolerate part sun but have more flowers and stronger stems when grown in full sun (6 hours a day). 

Drought tolerance is one of the advantages of Stokes’ Asters. They prefer the good drainage of a container, a hillside bed or sandy soil. An area where the roots stay wet and cold all winter will cause their early demise.

To keep them blooming, deadhead (cut off) the faded flowers and remove stems that look spent. They may have a fall re-bloom. After plants stop flowering the stems can be cut back to the base.

Stokes’ Asters have no insect or disease problems; deer and rabbits do not eat them. They have to be divided every 4 to 6 years. They were named for the botanist Dr. Jonathan Stokes, a friend of Carl Linnaeus. Dr. Stokes also discovered the heart-healing digitalis in Foxglove plants. 

To grow Stokesia, plant seeds directly in the garden in fall or early spring. Seeds can be purchased or collected from existing plants. Plant roots can be divided in October to propagate indoors this winter.
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