Plant of the Week: Blue Ice bluestar

As you walk along the High Line in May, look down. The park changes each week as more flowers emerge. This month features one of the signature plant genuses of the High Line—the Amsonia or Bluestar family. We have two main types, Amsonia hubrichtii, which is more upright with light blue flowers, and Amsonia 'Blue Ice' -- Blue Ice bluestar--which is low-growing with distinctive purple flowers. Blue Ice bluestar is present throughout the park, and is just coming into bloom this week.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' is an herbaceous perennial with flowers forming in large, multi-stemmed clumps. The color of the flowers ranges from deep purple to light blue. It works as an excellent ground cover, which is the main way that it can be seen on the High Line. Look under the trees in Gansevoort Woodland to see an impressive stand of Blue Ice.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' is native to most of the Eastern US, including New York State. It's a tough plant, which makes it a good fit for the High Line. It's hardy in USDA climate zones 3 through 9, which covers all but the coldest or most tropical parts of the country. Bluestar can be grown in full sun to part shade, has no major pest problems, and is deer resistant. It also grows well in containers.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

The name of this species was recently changed from Amsonia tabernaemontana 'Blue Ice' to simply Amsonia 'Blue Ice'. The former Latin name for this species comes from Jacobus Theodorus, the father of German botany. In 1588 he illustrated a famous book on plants, and later he Latinized his name as tabernaemontana. To acknowledge his work, the species was named in his honor, at least for a while.

When grown in full sun, Blue Ice will stay upright, but tends to flop in shade—some staking may be required. Bluestars can be grown from seed or from stem cuttings, and will spread over the seasons. They prefer moist, well-drained soil.

Blue Ice bluestar can be found throughout the High Line, including the Gansevoort Woodlands & Washington Grasslands between 12th and 13th Streets, Diller-von Furstenberg Sundeck between 14th and 16th Streets, the 10th Avenue Square at 17th Street, the Wildflower Field and Radial Plantings between 27th and 30th Streets, and outside the Whitney Museum.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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