Fall is fast approaching, and with the turning of leaves comes the annual flood of mums at garden centers and nurseries everywhere. They’re a staple of outdoor fall décor and gardens — and rightly so — but they’re not reliably winter-hardy for our area. It’s an all-too-common challenge for gardeners in climates similar to ours here in Amish Country, but it can be a fun challenge to accept. Rather than trying to force a favorite flower to grow where it normally wouldn’t, the best bet is to search for native plant options in your area. I’m hunting for something to use in the gardens for fall color with a couple of added perks that any busy gardener can appreciate: a species that will return season after season and require less care and watering than mums.
One great option I’ve found is the native aster. Native asters generally bloom in shades of blue, purple, lavender, pink, or white and attract bees, butterflies, and moths after most other flowers are finished. As you plan your fall décor or garden additions, consider natives asters and/or other native fall flowering options. They’ll come back year after year and support populations of beneficial insects and pollinators late in the season, when other flowers have lost their magnificence.