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Maryland & Virginia Native Plants: The Local Awesome Amsonia

If you are looking for the Chesapeake local, it's Eastern Blue Star!

native perennial amsonia early fall color
Eastern Blue Star

If you encourage gardening friends to add native plants to their gardens, you probably get asked which plants to start with. I always include amsonia because it is so very easy to grow and other than a one time cut back in spring, if that, it needs absolutely no maintenance. This post amplifies all the amazing attributes of amsonia and there are many!

One thing about this perennial, it takes a while to get going. If you plant a quart size plant, in my experience, it isn't going to really bulk up and do its thing until year four. Totally worth the wait though.

Blue Star in Fall with Inkberry
Blue Star in Fall with Inkberry

Long ago, I planted a large drift, well, a large drift for a 1/8 acre garden, and it does its thing year after year with absolutely no intervention from me. This is Amsonia hubrichtii, also called Blue Star, originally native to Oklahoma and Arkansas. The narrow wispy foliage is so enticing three seasons of the year. I always knew though, this was not the Chesapeake amsonia.

Eastern Blue Star Fall Color
Eastern Blue Star

I am late to the truly local amsonia, Eastern Blue Star (Amsonia tabernaemontana), also called blue dogbane. Just a few years back, I added a few Eastern blue star near the already established drift. Those have come into their own and they are probably just as great as the slender leaf amsonias. Their yellow fall color is more lemony than the gold tones of blue star amsonia. They also seem to turn to fall color a little later. (Your results may differ based on soil, moisture levels and sun!) These amsonia do all the same wonderful things -- heads of pale blue flowers in spring, light green foliage in summer and a riot of yellow color in fall. No maintenance really required.

You may be thinking - way more detail than I need! I get it. I share this only to say this is another reason it is worthwhile to take the extra time you may need to go to a native plant nursery. At those nurseries, you are far more likely to find Chesapeake natives. If I had done that when initially planting amsonia, I'd have a full stand of the Chesapeake native Eastern Blue Star right this very moment!

Two thoughts. Once again, I am recommitting to taking the extra time to buy plants from local native nurseries. Second, if you are contemplating adding amsonia to your garden, it is akin to planting a tree. The best time to do it was yesterday. The next best time is today. You can get that plant going so you can enjoy the bounty sooner rather than later!

Now I realize it is November. You might check in with your favorite local nursery to see if they remain open and have Eastern blue star. If you are in central Maryland, Bona Terra's inventory shows some large sizes available. Another option is by mail: Plant More Natives. You can also make plans for spring of course! These plants create a bolt of yellow in late fall. Plant blue star near any evergreen and it would be hard to not get a great result.

Happy late fall gardening.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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