As the holiday season approaches, many of us eagerly anticipate the vibrant colors and festive decorations that accompany this joyous time of year. While traditional holiday flowers like mums have long been a popular choice for seasonal décor, there’s a Florida-Friendly alternative that not only adds a burst of color to your celebrations but also benefits the local environment. Enter the Florida native asters – a stunning and native choice for your holiday festivities.
Why Florida Native Asters?
Florida native asters (Asteraceae) are not only visually appealing with their daisy-like blooms, but they also offer numerous advantages over traditional holiday plants like mums. Mums grow best in zones 4 through 9, and in Sarasota County it is now predominantly zone 10. So, they are not the Right Plant for the Right Place. Native asters are well-adapted to Florida’s climate, making them more resilient and easier to maintain. By choosing Florida native asters, you’re not just decorating for the holidays – you’re making a Florida-Friendly choice that can make a lasting impact in your garden.
Key Species of Native Asters
Climbing Aster Symphyotrichum carolinianum: A clambering mass, it is often found along waterways in full bloom this time of year. It is a great plant for a fence, which is where it grows at the UF/IFAS Twin Lakes Park Demonstration Garden. It is blanketed with pale lavender flowers.
Rice Button Aster Symphyotrichum dumosum: With a compact and bushy growth habit, the Rice Button Aster typically reaches a height of one to three feet. It produces an abundance of small, daisy-like flowers with white to pale blue petals, creating a delicate and charming display. We have it displayed in our Native Plant Corridor.
Stokes’ Aster Stokesia laevis: Characterized by striking lavender-blue, daisy-like flowers. This plant typically thrives in well-drained soils, making it well-suited for Florida’s sandy landscapes. With its clumping growth habit and lance-shaped leaves it grows best in dappled shade in our area. For the greatest visual appeal, place Stokes’ Aster in groupings.
There are a variety of native asters throughout Florida. To find what thrives in your region, consider visiting a local nursery specializing in native plants.
One of the key advantages of Florida native asters is their extended blooming period. While mums may provide a burst of color for a few weeks, native asters can bloom late summer until first frost, ensuring your holiday display remains vibrant for an extended period. This prolonged blooming season means you can enjoy the festive atmosphere for longer, making Florida native asters a great investment for your seasonal decorations.
After the Holidays:
Once the holiday season is over, your Florida native asters don’t have to be discarded like traditional holiday plants. Instead, these hardy perennials can be planted in your garden, providing long-lasting beauty and ecological benefits. As native plants, asters play a crucial role in supporting local wildlife, especially pollinators like bees and butterflies.
Prime Pollinator Plant:
Florida native asters attract a variety of pollinators, making them an essential addition to any garden aiming to support local wildlife. Bees and butterflies are particularly fond of their blooms, enhancing the biodiversity of your garden. By cultivating native plants, you contribute to the conservation of local ecosystems and help sustain essential pollinator populations.
This holiday season, consider breaking away from the traditional and embracing the beauty and sustainability of Florida native asters. These native plants not only provide a festive and eco-friendly alternative to mums but also contribute to the well-being of local ecosystems. After the holidays, plant them in your garden to support pollinators and enjoy their blooms year after year. It’s a sustainable choice that keeps on giving. With Florida native asters, you’re not just decorating for the season – you’re making a lasting impact on your local ecology.
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Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert
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