Called common blue star, blue dogbane or willow amsonia, Amsonia tabernaemontana is a native perennial that loves sun and light shade. It also tolerates moist conditions, which makes it perfect for wetlands, open woodland areas, meadows and rain gardens.
Amsonia is named in honor of the 18th century Virginia physician Dr. Charles Amson. The species name commemorates the 16th century German herbalist Jakobus Theodorus Tabernaemontanus.
Small but charming clusters of pale blue star-shaped flowers bloom above a mound of multi-stemmed willowlike leaves that add a fine, textured element to any landscape. Its one- to three-foot dense multi-stemmed mounded growth habit is similar to that of a small shrub or bush.
Site this plant in full sun to part shade and average to moist soil. Moderately drought-tolerant once established, this is truly a low maintenance, easy-to-grow, trouble free long-lived plant. Another plus is its wonderful golden foliage display in the fall.
Many insects enjoy the nectar of the blue star’s flower, especially long-tongued insects such as carpenter bees, hummingbird moths and butterflies. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are also attracted to the nectar. Because of the somewhat toxic nature of the sap in its stem and leaves, insects and mammals tend to stay away, making this a great rabbit- and deer-resistant plant. The sap is not harmful to humans.
Upcoming Events at the Botanical Gardens
- Join ornithologist Simon Thompson Wednesday, May 3, from 8–10 a.m. for an easy, early morning bird walk in the gardens.
- The Annual Spring Plant Sale will be held on Friday, May 5, from noon to 6.p.m. and Saturday, May 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. One of the Botanical Gardens’ major fundraisers, this event will offer a wide variety of native flowers propagated and grown by the garden staff and volunteers. Numerous local plant vendors will have shrubs, trees and flowers for purchase.
- Designing with Native Plants: A Naturalistic Approach with Lisa Wagner will be held Sunday, May 28, from 2–4 p.m. Using native plants in ways that create pleasing and attractive gardens can be as simple as using nature for your inspiration.
Attendance at the plant sale is free. Educational programs are $12 for members, $17 for nonmembers. Participants must pre-register and prepay for classes by calling 828.252.5190.
The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Learn more at ashevillebotanicalgardens.org.