Amsonia is commonly called Bluestar, and its name fits it well. The little powder blue flowers do look like stars. The flowers are held in clusters at the tips of stems. Pictured above is Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrechtii). As its name implies, it is native to the Ouachita Mountains in central Arkansas. Its scientific name recognizes Leslie Hubricht who discovered it growing in the wild in the early 1940s.
This is my plant’s third year in my garden and it is doing well. It reaches about 2 feet in height. Each spring, it initially forms a nice clump, but tends to topple over as it matures, especially after rain. It’s suggested that you cut back the stems by 1/2 to 1/3 after flowering to promote bushy growth, and I might try that this summer. More sun might also help.
Besides the pretty blue flowers, amsonia hubrechtii features fine, threadleaf foliage that makes a good foil for neighbouring plants. It is reported to turn bright gold in the fall, giving it a long season of interest, but so far, mine has failed to do so. Maybe this year, now that it is more mature, it will put on a fall show.
The flowers of Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ are a darker blue. The plant is more compact than A. hubrechtii, about a foot tall, and it has broader, glossy green leaves. It’s quite an attractive addition to the front of the border.
Here’s another photo of ‘Blue Ice’, above. With A. hubrechtii and ‘Blue Ice’ both doing well, I added Amsonia ‘Seaford Skies’ to the garden last year. It was very late in emerging this spring, but eventually it got growing and is now sporting a few pale flowers. That’s Seaford Skies in the photo below. Its foliage is intermediate between ‘Blue Ice’ and hubrechtii.
This spring, I added Amsonia tabernaemontana, sometimes called Eastern Bluestar. It is native to Missouri, where it occurs most frequently in rich, open woods and thickets. The species name commemorates the German herbalist Jakobus Theodorus Tabernaemontanus (1525-1590). It has narrow, willow-shaped leaves, and grows to a height similar to that of A. hubrechtii, two to three feet. I think we’ll have to wait until next year to see its flowers here. All of my amasonia are growing in part sun locations, where they get a bit of shade across the day.