Aster, Michaelmas Daisy

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Lawn & Garden

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Asters, also known as Michaelmas daisies, are types of perennial flowers that come in a variety of colors and sizes. Typically, they bloom in clusters with each blossom measuring from half an inch to several inches wide, on stems ranging in height from six inches to several feet tall during the late summer or fall. The ray petals of asters can be white, blue, deep purple, or pink with central disks that are golden. Many asters are native to North America and can grow on their own with little to no care.

To grow asters, it is recommended to plant them in full sun in good garden soil, but they can also tolerate sandy and clay soils that are difficult for other plants. It is recommended to divide them every three years and refresh the soil to maintain their health. To promote branching and flowering on shorter stems that do not require staking, it is advised to pinch tall asters back quite hard in midsummer.

Asters can be propagated by division in spring or from seed. They are excellent in garden borders and mass plantings, and containers of asters in bloom are popular in the fall. Asters also make good cut flowers. There are several related species of asters, including Aster tataricus, which is a seven-foot species with clusters of lavender flowers, A. novae angliae, which can be the tall wild type but has also been bred into dwarf forms that stay low without pinching, and A. tongolensis, which is a small rock-garden perennial. The scientific name for asters is Aster species.

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1. What is Aster?

Aster is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, also known as the daisy family. It includes about 180 species of herbaceous plants, mostly native to Eurasia, with a few species extending into North America and Africa. Aster flowers come in a variety of colors, including pink, purple, blue, and white, and they bloom in the late summer and fall.

2. What is Michaelmas Daisy?

Michaelmas Daisy is a common name for plants in the Aster genus that bloom in the fall, typically around the feast of St. Michael on September 29th. It is also known as the New York Aster, since it was first described from specimens collected in New York. The flowers are usually blue or purple, but can also be pink, white, or red. Michaelmas Daisies are popular garden plants, and are also used as cut flowers.

3. How do you grow Aster?

Asters are generally easy to grow in a sunny location with well-drained soil. They prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Plant them in the spring after the last frost, and water them regularly until they are established. Deadhead the spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Asters can be propagated by division in the spring or fall, or by taking stem cuttings in the summer.

4. Are Aster plants poisonous?

No, Aster plants are not poisonous to humans or pets. However, some people may be allergic to the pollen or sap, and contact with the leaves can cause skin irritation in some individuals.

5. How do you use Aster in floral arrangements?

Aster flowers are popular in floral arrangements, both fresh and dried. They add color and texture to bouquets and centerpieces, and are often used as filler flowers. Asters can also be used to create wreaths and garlands. To preserve the flowers, cut them when they are fully open and remove the lower leaves. Place them in a vase with fresh water and floral preservative, and change the water every few days.

6. What is the symbolic meaning of Aster?

Aster flowers are associated with love, wisdom, and faith. In ancient Greek mythology, the goddess Astraea, who represented justice, was transformed into the constellation Virgo and scattered Aster flowers across the earth. In Victorian flower language, Asters symbolized daintiness and patience.

7. What are some common pests and diseases of Aster?

Asters are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases, including aphids, spider mites, and powdery mildew. To prevent infestations, keep the plants healthy and well-watered, and remove any infected leaves or stems immediately. You can also use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control pests.

8. How do you prune Aster?

Asters benefit from regular pruning to encourage bushier growth and more blooms. Pinch back the stems in the spring when the plants are about 6 inches tall, and then again in early summer if they become leggy. Deadhead the spent flowers throughout the growing season, and cut back the stems to about 6 inches in the fall after the first frost.

9. What are some popular varieties of Aster?

There are many different species and cultivars of Aster, each with its own unique characteristics. Some popular varieties include the New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), the Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve), and the China Aster (Callistephus chinensis). Other popular cultivars include the Purple Dome, the October Skies, and the Wood’s Pink.

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