Named for their pale blue, star-shaped flowers, bluestars are easy to grow perennial plants. There are about 22 species of bluestar world-wide, but 2 North American species are most commonly available in nurseries. The bluestars differ mainly in their leaf shape. Hubricht's bluestar (shown) has very narrow leaves giving it a feathery appearance. Eastern bluestar leaves look like willow leaves. Bluestars may also be called by their Latin name, Amsonia.
In spring, a pyramid of pale blue flowers that last for several weeks top each stem of these bushy plants. The plants provide a beautiful green backdrop for bright summer flowers. Bluestars take the stage again in fall when the leaves turn bright gold for several weeks. If you decide to leave the stems standing in winter they will provide shelter for small birds and the narrow seed pods dangle from the stems.
Bluestars are easy to grow in almost any garden. They are tolerant of a wide range of soil types and acidity levels. They prefer full sun, but will grow in light shade. When they are grown in part-shade or in richer soils, the stems may need staking. Stems can also be cut back by a third after flowering to keep plants compact and bushy. Bluestar is very drought-tolerant once established, and needs little care. They love summer heat and can tolerate cold winters to Zone 4. Bluestars are very pest- and disease-resistant. Even deer tend to find them distasteful because the stems produce a milky sap.
Bluestars look wonderful in the back of a perennial border, massed in a native plant garden or at the edge of a woodland garden. In the spring they pair well with iris and narcissus. In summer, let them be a backdrop for bright-yellow black-eyed susans and purple coneflowers. In fall, purple asters look lovely against the golden foliage of bluestars. Bluestars can also be planted with shrubs like sweetspire and sumacs whose red fall leaves will be highlighted by the gold foliage. The feathery foliage of Hubricht's bluestar creates a green cloud when massed along walkways or fencelines.
All photos courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Gardens Plantfinder