Stokesia laevis 'Mel's Blue'
Common Name: Stokes' aster
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to September
Bloom Description: Periwinkle blue
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Tolerate: Rabbit, Drought

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates filtered sunlight, but prefers full sun. Prefers moist, sandy soils, but has surprisingly good drought and heat tolerance. Wet soil in winter is the main cause of death for this plant. A well-drained soil is essential. These plants appreciate winter mulch in the northern parts of their growing range (USDA Zone 5). Deadhead individual spent flowers and remove spent flowering stems to encourage additional bloom. Plants can be cut back to basal foliage after bloom.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Stokesia laevis, commonly known as Stokes' aster, is native to wetlands, bottomlands, wet pinewoods, savannas and ditches mostly along the coastal plain from North Carolina to Florida to Louisiana. It is an evergreen perennial that typically grows to 1-2' tall. It features fluffy, cornflower-like, violet blue flowers (to 2 1/2” across), each with notched rays surrounding a pincushion center of feathery disk florets. Flowers bloom from early to mid-summer (sometimes with a fall rebloom) atop generally erect, leafy stems that rise from a basal rosette of lanceolate to elliptic, medium green leaves (to 6" long). Stem leaves are stalkless and smaller than basal leaves. Leaves are evergreen in warm winter climates.

Genus name honors English physician/botanist Jonathan Stokes (1755-1831).

Specific epithet means smooth.

'Mel's Blue' was discovered in July 2007 by Adrianus van Heesbeen of Galder, the Netherlands as a chance mutation of an unnamed variety of Stokesia laevis. It has strong stems with deep grass green, strap-like foliage and a round upright shape. Its flowers are 4 in. wide and periwinkle blue. 'Mel's Blue' grows 1 to 1.5 ft. tall and 0.5 to 1 ft. wide. United States Plant Patent #PP23,090 awarded September 25, 2012.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for caterpillars. Flower stems tend to flop, particularly after a strong Midwestern thundershower.

Garden Uses

Border fronts or cottage gardens. Moist areas along ponds, streams or water gardens. Small groupings or mass.