Asters

Aster is a genus of perennial flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. The scientific name of aster is Symphyotrichum spp. (formerly Aster). Its circumscription has been narrowed, and it now encompasses around 170 species, all but one of which are restricted to Eurasia; many species formerly in Aster are now in other genera of the tribe Astereae. Native to North America, New World asters comprise many species in several different genera of plants, as well as dozens of cultivars, but for gardeners, asters are simply great flowers that provide purple or blue daisy-like flowers late in the season.



Aster is a genus of herbaceous perennial flowering plants that have late-season blooms. This type of plant has groups of flowers, also known as heads, that sit within a small basket of surrounding leaves. The colorful blooms vary from white and yellow to pastel pinks, blues, purples, while some varieties are vibrant and contain vivid hues. The name aster originated from the Greek word for star as reference to the flower’s star-shaped flower heads. Asters are also known as frost flowers because they’re often used in floral arrangements during the autumn and winter seasons.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

1 - 8 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

1 - 4 feet


Approximate pH

5.8 - 6.5


Types of Asters


Ada Ballard (Aster novi-belgii)



This type of aster is a little larger than other types, with petals that get up to three inches across. It has petals of a soft lavender-blue color with cheery yellow centers. They bloom in late-summer to mid-fall and are sturdy and easy to grow. They also grow up to 40 inches high and are resistant to both rabbits and deer.


Audrey (Aster novi-belgii)



Native to North America, this dwarf aster grows only up to 18 inches in height, but its color makes it stand out nonetheless. Light-lilac-pink petals encircle a bright-yellow center, and butterflies and birds love it. As a flower that does well in salty or dry soil, the Audrey makes for beautiful cut flowers for vases and containers, and it blooms in late-summer to mid-Fall.


Barr’s Pink (Aster novae-angliae)



Dense lilac-pink petals that grow up to 2.25 inches across are what make up this beautiful flower, which also has a golden-yellow center that turns to bronze when it ages. Its sturdy, multiple stems have light green leaves and are hairy-looking, and they are the perfect complement to the flower’s extraordinary petals.


Chatterbox (Aster novi-belgii)



With dense soft-pink petals and a striking yellow center, this flower has lance-shaped, grey-green leaves and can grow up to 16 inches in height. It is a dwarf plant native to North America, and butterflies and birds love it. It also does best in full sun and moist soil, and looks spectacular in vases and containers.


Coombe Violet (Aster novi-belgii)



This type of aster has very large yellow centers and petals that are purple-violet in color. It blooms from early to mid-fall, and it looks beautiful in fall borders and in cottage and butterfly gardens. Best when grown in full sun or partial shade, the flower is a great source of nectar for butterflies and brings beautiful color to anyone’s garden.


Fellowship (Aster novi-belgii)



The Fellowship aster is a beautiful shade of pale pink that gets to over two inches wide and has petals that are quill-shaped. It blooms from late-summer to late-fall and has won several international flower awards. Its slender dark green leaves perfectly complement its petals, and it is very attractive to butterflies and birds.


First Snow (Aster ericoides)



The First Snow is unique in that it is low-growing and has very tiny petals. It is bright white in color with bright-yellow centers, and it comes with massive amounts of linear green leaves that look prickly but are actually very soft. The plant gets up to two feet high and 40 inches wide, and it is best to divide them every three to five years.


Grunder (Aster amellus)



With large deep-lavender blooms and bright-yellow centers, this flower has strong, upright stems and blooms in early to mid-fall. For late-season gardens, the Grunder adds a touch of color, and it grows up to 32 inches high and two feet in width. It is drought-tolerant, attractive to butterflies and birds, and looks beautiful in cottage or butterfly gardens.


Harrington’s Pink (Aster novae-angliae)



This flower has fine ray petals that are clear pink in color and get to one inch in width. Blooming from late-summer to late-fall, it is a type of New England aster and has won several international flower awards. It grows up to six feet tall, and it looks extraordinary in butterfly or cottage gardens, not to mention in prairies all over the country.


Jungfrau (Aster x frikartii)



Blooming from mid-summer to fall, this aster produces massive numbers of flowers that are blue-purple in color and get up to three feet in height. They are trouble-free, easy to grow, and need no staking. To show them off the best, place them in vases, cottage gardens, butterfly gardens, or borders.


KICKIN Carmine Red (Aster novae-angliae)



Thanks to its bushy, compact array of carmine-red petals and bright-yellow centers, you will notice these flowers as soon as you get anywhere near them. They grow up to three feet high and three feet wide, so it is difficult to miss them. Birds and butterflies love them, but deer and rabbits do not. They also make beautiful border plants and look fantastic in vases and containers.


KICKIN Lilac Blue (Aster novae-angliae)



Growing up to three feet tall and three feet wide, these lilac-blue flowers look stunning regardless of where they are planted. They do best in full sun and well-drained soil, and they look perfect when used as a border or planted in cottage gardens. They bring a touch of color to anyone’s garden, and they are low-maintenance as well.


KICKIN Pink Chiffon (Aster novae-angliae)



These flowers have petals in pastel pink, almost white, and beautiful button centers in yellow. They bloom from late-summer to mid-fall, and they thrive best in soil that is rich and moist, but well-drained. The textured green leaves perfectly complement the beautiful petals, and they are sure to be a talking point when part of your garden.


King George (Aster amellus)



This fall-blooming purple flower is a hybrid in the Aster amellus range (also called Italian asters). Many people rate ‘King George’ asters as among the best types of asters due to their large violet blossoms and golden yellow centers. The beautiful purple flowers contrast well with the dark green oval-shaped foliage on the bushy plant. ‘King George’ asters will grow to a height of around 24” (60 cm) and have a spread of about the same size.


Little Carlow (Cordifolius hybrid)



With small, single petals that are lavender-blue in color and have bright-yellow centers, this flower is elegant and has beautiful dark-green leaves to complement its soft-colored petals. Blooming in late-summer to early-fall, it is attractive to both hummingbirds and butterflies, and, once you have a first look at it, you’ll see for yourself why it, too, has won several international flower awards.


Lou Williams (Aster novae-angliae)



These asters are spikey and showy, and their color can range from a ruby-red to a purple-red hue. They bloom from late-summer to late-fall and have large green petals that are clad with hair-like structures. They grow rather tall, up to six feet in height, and they droop and close when it’s dark or cloudy, but open up again when it’s bright and sunny outside.


Monch (Aster frikartii)



A perennial plant that contributes a bold splash of lavender-blue color to any garden, this type of aster is mildew-resistant, easy to grow, and needs no staking. It grows up to three feet tall and prefers medium moisture in the soil, as well as full sun or partial shade. The winner of several international flower awards, the Monch is eye-catching and looks astounding in vases and containers.


Nanus (Aster sedifolius)



The Nanus aster has star-shaped petals in a lilac-blue color and bright-yellow centers. It is native to Europe, and butterflies and birds love it. It is also easy to grow, long-lasting, and it has sturdy stems and dark-green leaves. Perfect for containers and vases, this aster needs an airy spot to prevent powdery mildew, but otherwise it is very low-maintenance.


Ochtendgloren (Symphyotrichum)


Considered a herbaceous perennial, this aster has won several international flower awards and grows up to five feet tall and three feet wide. Blooming in mid to late-fall, it has star-shaped petals in a beautiful shade of pink and centers that are yellow-green in color. It also has narrow dark-green leaves that bring out the pink color, and it makes a beautiful border or edge.


October Skies (Aster obligonfolius)



With spiky sky-blue petals and a cheery yellow center, this type of aster blooms from late-summer to fall and grows up to two feet tall. Their bushy, blue-green foliage makes their color stand out even more, and they bring both a beautiful splash of color to your garden and a bit of nectar for butterflies and bees to enjoy.


Pink Victor (Aster novae-angliae)



With double medium-pink petals, this flower can show up almost anything else in your garden, and its bright-green leaves look magnificent next to its petals. They droop and close when the sun is down, or when it is cloudy, and open back up when the sun returns, and they are low-maintenance and resistant to both deer and rabbits.


Prof. Anton Kippenberg (Aster novi-belgii)



Blooming from late-summer to mid-fall, this aster grows up to 16 inches tall and has narrow, ray, semi-double petals that are lilac-blue in color with beautiful yellow centers. Best when grown in zones four to eight, it resists powdery mildew as long as it is planted in an airy spot, and it looks beautiful in borders and vases.


Purple Cloud (Aster novae-angliae)



The Purple Cloud aster consists of large purple-blue flowers with brilliant yellow centers, and they are both easy to grow and cheery-looking. They grow up to 40 inches high and are both deer and rabbit-resistant, but they easily attract butterflies and birds. They also look beautiful in containers and vases.


Purple Dome (Aster novae-angliae)



A daisy-like flower with deep-purple petals and sunny-yellow centers, the Purple Dome closes up when it’s dark or cloudy and opens back up when the sun returns. If you pinch back the stems before midsummer, they can keep their shape better, and they always do best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil.


Rosa Erfullung (Aster amellus)


This type of aster is purple-pink in color and is produced in abundance from early to mid-fall. With striking yellow centers, it grows up to 20 inches wide and 20 inches tall, and, since it is resistant to powdery mildew, it is an easy-to-grow flower. Growing in beautiful sprays that are certain to attract attention, these flowers are also beautiful in vases and containers.


Royal Ruby (Aster novi-belgii)



These asters are a little unique because their centers often look like part of the flower, in a mulberry-red color and with only a touch of yellow. The eye-catching color perfectly complements the dark-green leaves, and, since they are sturdy and easy to grow, they are often found in borders, coastal gardens, containers, and cottage gardens.


Rosa Sieger Aster (Aster novae-angliae)



The ‘Rosa Sieger’ is a New England aster cultivar that produces a multitude of light rose-pink flowers with yellow centers. The compact flowers with their bright fall colors look delightful in any garden in September and October. Because these asters are quite bushy, you get a lot of color on one plant. These asters grow to between 3 and 4 ft. (90 – 120 cm) tall and have a spread of up to 2 ft. (60 cm).


Sapphire (Aster dumosus)



With bushy, fluffy petals that are large and lilac-blue in color with bright-yellow centers, this flower includes skinny leaves with rough edges and a dark-green color. It grows up to two feet tall but requires no staking, and it looks amazing in containers and vases. It also is easy to grow and looks great for a very long time.


September Ruby (Aster novae-angliae)



This flower’s color is its most attractive feature because it has ruby-rose petals and bright-yellow centers, not to mention rich-green leaves that perfectly complement the petals. Perfect for butterfly or cottage gardens, this flower grows three to four feet high and is very attractive to birds and butterflies.


Snow Flurry (Aster ericoides f. prostratum)



With a large, dense mat and arching stems that instantly attract your attention, this flower has won several international flower awards and looks beautiful as a groundcover or planted somewhere where it can form a cascade. It can grow up to six inches high but can spread to two feet in width, and it even does well in soils made with clay or sand, or even soils that are dry.


Violet King (Aster amellus)


With star-shaped petals in deep-violet with large bright-yellow centers, this flower has won several international flower awards and makes a wonderful addition to a late-summer garden. It does best in full sun and well-drained soil, and it looks spectacular in containers and vases.


Violetta (Aster novae-angliae)



Blooming a long time, late-summer to late-fall, the Violetta has beautiful, daisy-like violet-blue petals and large, spiky yellow centers that highlight the petals’ exceptional color. Originating in New England, the flower grows up to five feet tall and three feet wide, and it can take both very dry and very wet conditions.


Wood’s Pink



This is a striking flower with cheery-pink petals and a bright-yellow center, and they bloom from late-summer to early-fall. Growing up to 18 inches tall, the Wood’s Pink prefers full sun or partial shade, and it can even grow in dry or salty soil. Birds and butterflies love it, and it is perfect for zones four to eight. It also makes a great border or edging.


Wood’s Purple



A dwarf aster with massive petals that are violet-blue or purple in color, the Wood’s Purple flower is bushy and can grow up to 18 inches high and 18 inches wide. These flowers have bright-yellow centers and are deer and rabbit-resistant, and they bloom in late-summer to early-fall. The flower is also very attractive to butterflies and birds, and it looks stunning in vases or containers.


Planting Asters


Asters grow and flower best in full sun. Some varieties will tolerate part shade but will have fewer flowers. Soil should be moist but well-drained, and loamy. Wet clay soil will lead to root rot and dry sandy soil will lead to plant wilt. Mix 2 to 3 inches of compost into the soil prior to planting.


When to Plant Asters

  • Asters are most often bought as a potted plant. The best time to plant young asters is in mid- to late spring. Look for asters in the perennial sections of your garden center for the best selection.

  • Full grown and blooming asters also can be found in garden centers in late summer for fall decoration. Plant them in pots or in the ground as soon as possible after purchase so they can get established.

  • Asters can be grown from seed, but germination can be uneven. If desired, plant seeds outside in the fall, or start them indoors in winter in flats and refrigerate them for 4 to 6 weeks to simulate winter dormancy. Seven to 8 weeks before planting, place the pots/flats in a sunny spot with a temperature of 60º to 62ºF. Transplant seedlings outside in mid- to late spring after the danger of frost has passed. (See local frost dates.)


How to Plant Asters

  • When planting young aster plants, space them 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the type and how large it’s expected to get.

  • Fully grown asters, such as those available in late summer or early fall, should be planted about 3 feet apart.

  • Asters prefer areas with cool, moist summers, as well as cool nights, in sites with full to partial sun.

  • In warmer climates, they do not like the hot midday sun.

  • Give plants plenty of water at the time of planting.

  • Add mulch after planting to keep soil cool and prevent weeds.


Growing Asters


How to Grow Asters From Seed


While asters can be grown from seed, germination can be difficult. Depending upon the variety, you might also wind up with something that looks nothing like the parent plant. For those reasons, propagating from division is the recommended route.


How to Get Asters to Bloom


Though asters often bloom readily with simple care, there are a few things to look for if your asters aren't performing as they should. They need about 1 inch of water per week, so keep an eye on the forecast to make sure they get enough from mother nature. Stake tall varieties to keep them from falling over and ensure they get the full sun they require. Work in some compost to boost blooms, and don't hesitate to pinch the flowers back in spring and summer to encourage even more of them.


Aster Care


While you can grow aster flowers from seeds planted in the springtime, it may take several years for them to mature into full-sized plants. More often, asters are planted from potted nursery specimens. They do best in loamy, well-draining soil, and desire a good amount of space around the plants to allow room for their roots to expand.


Every three years or so, the root clumps should be dug up and divided to keep the plants from getting too woody and dying out in the centers. The woody center can be discarded, with the outer portions replanted at the same depth as before.


Light


Plant aster flowers in an area that boasts full sun for the majority of the day. Too much shade can cause lanky plants and fewer flowers, especially for the more common cultivars and hybrids. There are some native species varieties, however, that will do quite well in partially shady conditions.


Soil


Asters appreciate loamy soil that's slightly acidic, with a pH ranging from 5.8 to 6.5. If your soil is alkaline, you can correct it by adding organic matter such as well-rotted manure, leaf mold, or compost.


Water


Keep new plantings moist and continue watering regularly until the flowers are finished blooming. As a rule of thumb, the soil your asters reside in should stay consistently moist but never saturated. One thing to note: Try to water the base of your asters without splashing water on the leaves—doing so can cause mildew or fungal growth. One inch of rain or watering once a week is usually recommended for most perennial plants.


Temperature and Humidity


Aster flowers thrive in cooler temperatures and are frost-hardy, able to withstand near-freezing temperatures temporarily. When it comes to humidity, asters have no special preferences and therefore will not need increased humidity levels or extra spritzing.


Fertilizer


Asters are moderate feeders, and they appreciate being fed with a balanced flower fertilizer twice a month, beginning in spring and continuing until the blooms begin to open. Excessive nutrients can shorten the blooming time, so stop fertilizing asters in August.


Pruning and Propagating Asters


Pruning


Pruning asters is simple: pinch off the dying flowers to make room for new growth. Remove dead or wilting stems promptly. For the simplest pruning, cut the flowers when they are almost in full bloom and bring them inside to enjoy in a vase.


When frost finally kills off the foliage, clip off the stems at ground level. This can also be done in the spring to allow birds to feed on the flower seeds throughout winter—both finches and chickadees are especially fond of aster seeds.


Propagating Asters


Asters can be propagated by collecting seeds or rooting stem cuttings, but by far the easiest and recommended way is propagation by division. Asters will survive no matter when you perform the division, but if done in late fall or early the following spring, the plants will become established enough to put on a fall display in their first year.

  1. Dig up the root clump with a shovel.

  2. Divide the clump into smaller pieces for replanting. Aster roots are tough, so you will need to use a sharp spade for that. Discard the woody center portion of the clump.

  3. Replant the pieces at the same depth as the original plant. Water thoroughly immediately after replanting and keep the plants moist until you see new growth. Feed the divisions with bone meal (follow the label for amounts), which is high in phosphorus and helps the plants get established.


Harvesting


Cut asters for flower arrangements when blooms are just beginning to open. Vase life is 5 to 10 days. Asters have side shoots, which will continue to develop. These can be cut for indoor arrangements once they are the size you like.


Overwintering


When autumn rolls around and the asters stop blooming, give them a good amount of water - about 1 to 2 inches - a few weeks before the first freeze. Cut down the foliage after that frost (or let the asters stand until spring so wildlife can enjoy them). Cover the asters with a few inches of mulch to protect the roots during the winter period.


Pests and Plant Diseases


Rust and powdery mildew disease can affect aster foliage. Follow proper plant spacing recommendations to improve air circulation and avoid splashing water to prevent these problems.


Most insect pests leave asters alone, but lace bugs can be a bother. You're more likely to notice the damage they cause than the insects themselves, which are very small and a nondescript grayish-brown color. If you spot yellowing foliage and leaf drop in the summer, consider using insect soap on the plants, coating all sides of the foliage to impact the hiding pests. Fortunately, lace bug outbreaks precede aster blooming time, so spraying won't affect butterflies and bees.


Uses

  • The flowers and leaves can be eaten fresh or dried when eating aster plants.

  • The roots of the plant were used in soups and young leaves were cooked lightly and used as greens.

  • Portions of the flower were also used to treat venereal diseases.

  • They are more commonly used added to tea blends, eaten fresh in salads, or used as garnish.

  • The Ojibwa used an infusion of aster root topically to aid with headaches.

  • Asters may also be used as borders or even as a vivid, colorful ground cover.

  • Asters are often used in landscaping to decorate large, open areas.


Medicinal Uses


One prime example of a medicinal plant is the New England aster. Research suggests that this late-blooming plant is beneficial for the lungs and aids in respiratory health. Individuals who have chronic lung conditions, like asthma, or those battling a cold, will find relief with a tincture made from this flower.


Some civilizations used the aster plant to treat venereal disease. Chinese medicine, along with other cultures, have been using the aster root for centuries in various ways. The root aids in minimizing headache pain and can help work as a laxative. Other ailments, including hangovers and epilepsy, have been treated with the use of this flowering plant.


Aster Tattoos in Modern Culture


Because of its deep-rooted meaning from the Greek culture, the aster flower can be prevalent in many tattoos symbolizing love. In modern culture, it is the birth flower of September and can represent when the individual was born.





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