ASTER, Perennial (Michaelmas Daisy) Compositae A. species
HABITAT: Native to Asia, North America, Europe. Hardy zones 4-10 (dependent upon species).
USES: Rock gardens, borders, naturalized beds, background.
HABIT: 6 inch to 6 foot perennial plants, flowering from May until frost in all colors but yellow and orange. 1 1/2-3 inch flowers are basically daisy-like, usually with yellow centers; some fragrant; some closing at night.
SEED GERMINATION: For best results sow seed in moist Grow Mix indoors barely covering seed; keep constantly moist, but not overly wet, and maintain night temperatures of 55°F during germination which usually takes 2-3 weeks. Transplant when large enough to handle to peat pots or sow directly to peat pots or pellets; transplant to garden when roots emerge from pot walls.
CULTURE: Set out in full sun (will tolerate light shade) in good, well-drained garden soil 12-30 inches apart depending on variety. Pinch back in late spring and a month later to induce branching, stimulate flowering and strengthen tall varieties to eliminate staking. Feed monthly with general garden fertilizer and provide moderate moisture. Keep well cultivated and mulch for protection in zones 3-5. Dig and divide in fall or spring every 2-3 years.
SPECIES: A. alpinus (Alpine Aster): N. Am. Europe. 6-12 inches. 1 1/2" purple. May-June. Alkaline, dry soil. Zone 3.
A. amellus (Italian Aster): Europe. 18 inches. 2 inch purple. July-September. Zone 3. A. ericoides (Heath Aster): N. Am. 2 1/2-6 foot. 1 1/2 inch lavender, white. Finely cut foliage. Zone 3.
A. x frikartii: 1 1/2-2 feet. 3 inch lavender. Fragrant. July-November. Zone 4.
A. novae-angliae (New England Aster): N. Am. 1-5 feet. 1 inch blue-violet. Glossy leaves. September-frost. Many new varieties in other colors. Zone 3.
A. spectabilis (Showy Aster): N. Am. 2 foot. Blue-violet. August-frost. Tolerates sandy, acid soil. Spreads by underground stolons (runners). Stiff dark green leaves. Zone 5.
INSECTS: Aphids: Use an approved insecticide such as Malathion for control.
DISEASES: Rust: Use an approved fungicide such as Thiram or Ferbam for control. Mildew: Use an approved fungicide such as Benlate for control.
PROPAGATION: Division in spring or fall, cuttings, seed.
REMARKS: A welcome addition to the fall garden to offset the short life of the Chrysanthemums.