Aah, fall! We glory in cool breezes, soft light (well, okay, light in Texas is rarely “soft”), and the resurgence of the perennial bloom cycle. Additionally, fall blooming plants burst out dramatically, a reminder of our two temperate growing seasons in Central Texas. One of the best of the bloomers in late summer/fall is the in the Aster family. Conoclinium boasts three great plants which are readily available at independent nurseries and for the first time ever, I have all three mistflowers residing in my gardens. Two of these perennials are ground covers, one is a shrub.
For years, I’ve grown the Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum).
I adore blue flowers and this has long been a favorite of mine. I bought a four-inch pot twelve or thirteen years ago and planted it in a back corner of my gardens. About three years ago, it didn’t come back from winter with the vigor usually displayed. For various reasons, I decided to move the remaining sprigs-with-root to a new perennial bed so that this mistflower would border a walkway. The color doesn’t translate well in these photos, but it’s a beautiful deep blue-purple,
All mistflower blooms are fuzzy, puffy and unusual looking.
Blue Mistflower begins blooming in August-September, depending upon rainfall. But, it is at its zenith of beauty in October.
After the first hard freeze, the blooms turn a warm, toasty brown. I’ll usually prune the remains to the ground in late winter and new green sprouts emerge in late spring. It can be spready, so it’s a great pass-a-long plant–just yank a sprig out of the ground, with some root and share.
Personally, I’ve always found this mistflower easy to transplant. A year ago, as I was expanding an existing bed, I pulled up five sprigs-with-roots and planted them.
These three survived the Summer From Hell and I expect this area to be lush with mistflower by this time next year.
The newest mistflower addition to my gardens is the White Mistflower (Ageratina havanensis). The blooms are fragrant–they smell like vanilla to me. This plant is more shrub-like, rather than the Blue Mistflower ground cover.
I planted this one about a year and a half ago, it bloomed last year and is even lovelier this year, especially as it happily mingles with Rock Rose (Pavonia laseopetala). The white blooms are especially pretty when contrasted with other bright colors.
Another mistflower common in Austin area gardens is the Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii). Like the Blue Mistflower, it’s a ground cover that dies after a freeze and returns in the spring. Also like the Blue, it spreads and (at least for most gardeners), is easy to transplant. The color is a lighter blue than the Blue Mistflower and the leaves are bright green and palmated.
Unlike every other gardener in Austin, I’ve never had much luck with these guys. Years ago, I planted a four-inch pot–it died. Last fall, I bought two, four-inch pots–both died in the freezes of January/February. Sigh. A nice friend gave me some sprigs-with-root this summer, so, ever the optimist, I planted.
The sprigs are blooming and doing well. I’ll see how this little group fares over the coming winter–I dearly hope each sprig survives. The Gregg’s Mistflower isn’t my favorite, but it is favored by the butterflies, (especially the Queen), when we have them.
All three mistflower species are deciduous in the winter and have low to moderate water needs. These plants attract butterflies and bees and are beautiful additions to any perennial garden.
Mistlfowers are also very tough plants. I hiked at Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve in early September and of the two plants that I saw blooming, one was a Gregg’s Mistflower. After the Summer From Hell and the exceptional drought that Central Texas is experiencing, to see a plant bloom without rainfall or irrigation is a testament to its durability.
The beauty of mistflower speaks for itself.