One of LA’s bad-ass, “survivor species,” California Aster manages to thrive even in the city’s most bombed-out hellscapes, so imagine how well it’s going to do in your garden. It’s also among the elite set of late-summer/early fall bloomers, putting out its cheerful, diminutive purple flowers at a time of year when pollinators need all the help they can get. Tough as nails, California Aster can take your most punishing southwestern exposures and once established, will not ask for a drop of supplemental water, ever. In fact, the only suggested maintenance for California Aster is an annual hard pruning (to about 6-inch stubs) after it’s finished flowering in the fall. It will, almost overnight, start to leaf out again, looking quite lush in just a few weeks, especially once the hoped-for “rainy season” gets underway. But there’s a catch:
Good luck finding this local powerhouse at a native plant nursery.
That is, unless you want a cultivar. Here at LANPS, we propagate the wild, straight species of California Aster from open-pollinated seed, not some fancy-pants clone with a unintentionally campy drag name like “Moss Landing” or “Silver Carpet.” Our California Aster, proudly un-pedigreed, was originally propagated from seed we found on a plant growing in an empty, hillside lot on Figueroa in Highland Park. It’s as “LA Native” as it gets.
Plant California Aster in full to part sun, at the edge of an oak canopy or on a slope among larger coastal sage scrub species like Eriogonum, Salvia and Artemesia, where it can interweave its spindly flower stalks among their sturdier scaffolding. It will likewise appreciate rocky, sandy soil with excellent drainage. Our well-rooted plants come in extra-deep 3″ pots, best planted with an auger.