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Amsonia: Blue Stars

There are some perennials that provide an added bonus of foliage that changes color in the fall.

blue star flowers

Photo: David Bygott

The common name is blue stars, as the plants have pretty little blue flowers in the spring.

There are some perennials that provide an added bonus of foliage that changes color in the fall.

For example, some species of Amsonia feature brilliant yellow foliage.  The common name is blue stars, as the plants have pretty little blue flowers in the spring.

Another, less poetic common name is dogbane.  The narrow leaves are lancelike, similar to the foliage of a willow, and the stems have a milky sap.

Plant Your Own

All Amsonias are native to North America and like full sun or partial shade and moist soil, but established plants can tolerate dry soils.

Plants can be cut back after flowering to keep them compact as they can grow up to 4 feet in large clumps in zones 5 through 9.  They can also be divided either in spring or fall.

Downy Blue Star

Amsonia ciliata or Downy Blue Star, native to our southeast, is a good one for small gardens as its clumps are only a foot wide.

Because of its pale blue flowers it combines well with other spring bloomers and when its elegant thin leaves turn yellow it provides impact in the fall garden, especially next to dark purple asters.

This is a plant that pays its way by performing well across the seasons.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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