I am trying to get to grips with a recent (annoying) name change so will refer to this lovely plant as Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Lady in Black’ as opposed to the older and much more reasonable name of Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’. I like all these North American asters (oops – symphyotrichums – I will never get used to this name) and although the larger-flowered kinds, especially the novii-belgii and novae-angliae varieties tend to get all the attention, because they are so showy, some of the more unusual, small-flowered kinds have their charms. Symphyotrichum lateriflorum is a lovely plant but I have to add one caveat, that most of them, because they flower late in the season, are pretty dull for most of summer. But ‘Lady in Black’ does have at least some appeal because the stems are black and the leaves very dark, as long as you plant it in sun. But then, when most of the garden is looking awful. this plant comes into its own and the rather angular stems are covered in dainty, pink-centred, white-rayed flowers. The flowers are dainty but there are so many of them, and the leaves are so fine that the plant becomes a cloud of pink.
‘Lady in Black’ grows to a bit higher than the species, up to 1m high and as much across when a clump is a couple of years old. Happily, this is a self-supporting plant, something that can’t be said about most autumn asters (yes I know!). The stems are very wiry and the side branches are at 90 degrees and they interlace, which makes the plant a matrix of flowering stems which is great for garden display but not so good for cutting. Mildew is less likely to be a problem with this one than others but it is always a good idea to divide symphyotrichums (yay!) every year or two years to maintain their vigour anyway.
To brighten your garden and to feed those late bees and butterflies this is a wonderful choice and easy to grow.