Mojave Aster

Botanical Name: Xylorhiza tortifolia

Category: sub-shrub

Divisible: No

Common Name: Mojave Aster, Woodyaster, Desert Aster

Evergreen: No

Propagation: Seed

Family: Asteraceae / California Native Plant

Invasive: No

Size: 1′-2′ tall and wide

I think this is my favorite desert wildflower – its delicate lavender blossoms are such an unusual sight!

This member of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae) is a shrubby perennial growing up to 30 inches high. It contains many long, gray-green stems which tend to remain leafless near the top. Each plant may bear as many as 20 flowers.

After plants are established with regular water, they like a summer drought, but expect them to drop some leaves (they won’t like summer water after established). Mojave Aster needs very good drainage of sandy, rocky, gravelly, dry soils. Either late summer rainfall or pruning can stimulate a second flowering in fall. Butterflies and other pollinators can’t resist the flowers, but luckily this California native resists browsing by rabbits.

Growing Mojave Aster ( Xylorhiza tortifolia) from Seed

No pre-treatment of seeds is needed.

Direct Sowing:

  • Native wildflowers are best sown in fall before the winter rains.
  • Method 1: Combine one part seed to three parts horticultural sand and scatter the mixture evenly.
  • Method 2: Scatter seed evenly and cover with a bit of soil. The seed should not be sown any deeper than 1/8” beneath the soil surface. Just apply enough soil to cover; do not “bury” the seed.
  • Method 3: Scatter seed and then rake in with a standard garden rake. Rake gently so that seed doesn’t get pushed down too deeply under the soil surface.
  • Water in seed gently immediately after sowing and keep the soil moist (not waterlogged) until a few inches of growth are visible. Then water as needed.

 Indoor Start:

  • Sow seeds in winter in a growing medium of 2 parts sand, 1 part mulch and 2 parts perlite. As above – barely cover seeds. Keep in a greenhouse or similar environment and keep the soil moist until germination.


  • After seedlings are well established and have at least 2 true leaves transplant into small pots in the same medium. This is about 4 weeks from sowing.
  • At 8 to 12 weeks begin to harden off for outdoor planting or transplant into larger containers and apply a time released fertilizer.


Care and Maintenance:

  • Mojave Aster needs dry, well drained soil and full sun to thrive.
  • Gather seeds heads in May after plant has finished blooming or allow them to scatter and self sow.

Buy Mojave Aster seeds from my Etsy shop

Practical advice from a home gardener

I am Deborah Valiquet – artist and obsessive gardener. Here you will find my advice for creating a garden oasis in the high desert. I’ll share my experiences – successes and failures over the last 10+ years. 

Even if your garden isn’t in the high desert you will find lots of valuable information here. Let’s dig in!