725 Stokesia laevisCommon Names: Stokes' aster Family: Asteraceae (aster/daisy Family)
Stokes' aster is an herbaceous perennial with 6-8 in (15-20 cm) evergreen petiolate (stalked) basal leaves. In late spring it sprouts several erect stems which have smaller, clasping leaves and stand about 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) tall, each bearing 1-4 shaggy cornflower-like flowerheads 3-4 in (7.6-10 cm) across. The ray florets are fringed and blue, lavender, pink or white, in two concentric rows, and the disc florets are darker shades of the same colors. Flowering goes on for several weeks.
There are many cultivars available: 'Blue Danube' has large. 4 in (10 cm), lavender flowerheads; 'Blue Moon' has deep blue flowerheads; 'Bluestone' is small, to 10 in (25 cm) high; 'Wyoming' has the darkest blue flowerheads of all; 'Rosea' has rosy-pink flowerheads; 'Alba' has white flowerheads; 'Silver Moon' has larger, silvery-white flowerheads; 'Omega Skyrocket' is vigorous, 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) tall and has long-stemmed white to pale blue flowerheads; 'Mary Gregory' is really different: it has yellow flowerheads!
Stokes' aster, Stokesia laevis, is native to the southeastern coastal plain from South Carolina to northern Florida to Louisiana where it grows in wetlands, including pine flatwoods, savannas, and pitcher plant seepage areas.
CultureNeeds acidic soil. Don't add lime. Promptly pinching off the spent flowerheads encourages more flowering. Light: Full sun is preferred for maximum bloom. Moisture: Likes plenty of moisture, but soil should be light and well-drained. It is imperative that the soil be dry during the winter. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Needs protection (mulch) in winter in zones 5 and 6. Propagation: Cultivars are propagated in late winter or spring by dividing the root clumps. The species can be grown from seed that has been stratified for 6 weeks at 40ºF (4.4ºC), but germination may take several weeks.
Use Stokes' aster at the front of perennial borders; the deep green basal leaves are evergreen and, when not covered by snow, provide some color and texture all winter. This is an adaptable and easy to grow perennial, considered by many as one of the most attractive late-flowering perennials. Cut flowers remain attractive for a week or more.
Stokesia is a monotypic genus (has only one species), named after the English physician and botanist, Jonathan Stokes who was a friend of Linnaeus' son.
Steve Christman 1/21/00, updated 6/7/03, 9/26/03, 12/9/03, 5/3/09, 11/10/12