Another of fall's purple blooms has arrived in My Florida Backyard - this time it's the Climbing Aster (Aster carolinianus). We've been watching the buds form over the last few weeks, and the first flowers finally opened a couple of days ago.
A. carolinianus was first documented in South Carolina in 1788, hence the scientific name and its other common name, Carolina Aster. In the wild, it's found in freshwater wetlands along the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes. It can grow in drier conditions, as it does in My Florida Backyard, but needs supplemental watering during dry seasons to thrive.
It has a delicious soft fragrance, and draws butterflies and other pollinators while in bloom, generally from mid-November through December. It blooms best when it gets plenty of sun, although it will flower in partial shade as well. The flower buds are a deeper purple, and the flower itself fades slowly from lavender to nearly white before it dies.
The nice thing about Climbing Aster is that, unlike some other climbing plants, it's pretty easy to control. It won't take over a garden like some vines will. Plant it where it has room to spread, provide a trellis, fence, or shrub for support, and cut it back as needed to fit within your garden.
Like most natives, Climbing Aster can be hard to find outside of native plant nurseries. We bought ours at the Sanibel-Captival Conservation Foundation native plant nursery last spring. It's worth the search, though, because this is a native that needs little attention and brings wonderful fall color to any Florida garden.