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Erigeron sp. (Fleabanes)
Erigeron flowers

Zone: 2 to 7

Soil: Sand to clay

Light: Full sun to part sun

Bloom colour: White rays with yellow centres

Bloom period: Late spring to early summer

Height: 1 to 3 feet

Moisture: Dry to medium

Attracts: Bees and butterflies

Notes: Fleabanes have quite attractive flower heads that resemble white Asters. Most Asters flower in the fall while Fleabanes are flowering at the beginning of summer, so these plants are easy to identify. While these plants can be a bit weedy, it is really worthwhile keeping some specimens because when most summmer plants have yet to bloom, Fleabanes provide an important source of nectar and pollen to lots of small carpenter bees and sweat bees.

The most common species and the most adaptable is Philadelphia Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus, which is widely distributed in both the Eastern and Western parts of North America. It is biennial and in it first year it will form a basal rosette. I often gather the rosettes and replant them together in a sunny part of the garden. They can flower in light shade but it takes longer to reach the flowering stage under these conditions. Typically I would put about 10 rosettes together to get a significant clump of these plants that will attract many bees and the odd butterfly. As soon as the plants have finished flowering, they can be pulled. This plant will grow to about 3 feet high in the sun and to lesser heights in the shade. Being a biennial, it spreads by seed and is therefore common on disturbed ground.

Another native fleabane that is easy to find is Robin's Plantain, Erigeron pulchellus. It is perennial and forms basal rosettes for most of the year except when flowering. The flowering stalks are about 1 foot high. This is a great plant to put at the front of the border where the basal rosettes will form a carpet of shiny leaves or it can fill in space under an overhanging shrub. Over time the rosettes send out rhizomes and form spreading clumps. Compared to Philadelphia Fleabane, Robin's Plantain is much tidier looking and has larger flower heads. Its blooming period is slightly earlier and shorter than Philadelphia Fleabane. It does well in part sun and is highly drought tolerant. It needs a well drained growing medium and does really well on sandy soils.

A typical fleabane looks like a white aster. Philadelphia Fleabane has over 150 rays around each flower
Erigeron philadelphicum rosette

The basal rosette of Philadelphia Fleabane

Halictus on Erigeron
Fleabanes attract a lot of sweat bees
Erigeron pulchellus
Robin's plantain in flower
Erigeron with Ceratina calcarata
Ceratina calcarata on Robin's Plantain