A Starring Role for Arkansas Bluestar

By Susan Littlefield

If you're looking for an easy care addition to the flower garden with lots of interest as the seasons change, look no further than the Perennial Plant Association's 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year™. Amsonia hubrichtii, which goes under the common names "Arkansas bluestar" and "thread-leaf blue star," forms a three foot tall and wide, shrub-like mound of bright green, ferny foliage that is covered with two to three inch wide clusters of pale blue, star-shaped flowers in late spring and early summer. But it puts on its biggest show with the approach of fall, when its leaves change to an eye-catching, bright yellow-gold.

The billowing, fine-textured, "feather-duster" foliage makes an excellent contrast to plants with bolder leaves. A pairing of this bluestar with the large, felty leaves of 'Helen von Stein' lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) adds months of low-maintenance visual excitement to the garden. The subtle tones of its flowers mix well with other bloomers in both hot and cool colors. Contrast them with the bold reds and oranges of Oriental poppy blossoms for some garden sizzle, then let the bluestar's expanding leaves cover the bare spots left behind when the poppies go dormant. The gilded fall foliage plays off well against the late season show of coneflowers, asters and ornamental grasses, especially when planted in masses, and really pops against a backdrop of dark foliage like that of 'Black Lace' elderberry or purple-leaf smokebush.

Arkansas bluestar grows best in full sun and well-drained soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. It rarely suffers from insect or disease problems, is usually passed over by deer and can go for years without needing division. What more could a gardener ask for?

The Perennial Plant Association is a trade association dedicated to the improvement of the perennial plant industry by providing information to enhance the production and use of garden perennials. Every year, their experts choose an outstanding "perennial plant of the year" that is suitable for a wide range of climates, requires low maintenance and exhibits multi-season interest.

For more information on Amsonia hubrichtii and the Perennial Plant Association, including information on past "Plant of the Year" winners, go to: Perennial Plant Association.

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