Blooming in a variety of vibrant colors, the aster flower is a favorite in every garden. The word Aster comes from Greek and refers to the star-shaped flowers that surround the warm yellow center, similar to the sunflower. Moreover, the aster flower is perennial, so you can enjoy its beauty and fragrance all year long. In addition, because of the sweet scent it emanates, butterflies and bees are attracted to it. So the pollination process is faster and the plant can spread and thrive more easily.
In this article, we will look at types of aster, how to plant and grow this versatile flower, and last but not least, the meaning of aster when composing a bouquet. So, if you are interested in brightening your garden with one or more varieties of aster, this guide will hopefully help you narrow down your options and get your green fingers working.
The Aster Flower Meaning
It is interesting to notice the history of this flower, starting with the ancient Greeks who used to burn aster leaves to ward off evil spirits. As such, asters were also left at altars to appeal to the gods as they were believed to be sacred. The magical powers of the asters extend both in England and Germany, where they were burned to keep serpents away.
According to Greek mythology, aster flowers were born out of the tears of the goddess Astraea. Legend has it, Jupiter was maddened by men, flooding the earth as a punishment. Astraea was too upset by his impulsiveness, and asked to be turned into a star to avoid witnessing the carnage. However, even though her wish was fulfilled, she still had a front-row seat to the aftermath. Her tears, pure, glittering stardust, fell to earth, therefore creating the beautiful, delicate blooms.
Nowadays, the aster flower is a symbol of patience and elegance and fits perfectly with any fall garden. Gifting an aster shows the appreciation and warmth you have for that person. The color does not affect the meaning however. There is an exception, hailing from a custom in France where aster flowers were put on soldiers’ graves as a symbol of remembrance and the wish the battle would have ended differently. As such, placing aster flowers on the grave symbolizes fond memories and a hint of regret.
How the Story Continued
Remember the legend of the Minotaur? According to Greek legend, King Aegeus, the father of the Minotaur-slayer Theseus, told his son that, upon return, he should fly a white flag to maek his victory, or a black flag to announce his death. Of course, Theseus was successful. But with Ariadna’s beauty in mind, he forgot to replace the black flag with the white one. When King Aegeus saw his son’s ship returning, he committed suicide out of grief. When his blood touched the ground, aster flowers sprouted.
Aster flowers, also known as Frost flowers, starworts, or Michaelmas daisies, come in a variety of different colors from intense blue, to pure white, dark red, happy pink, and soothing lavender. It’s also important to keep in mind that all couples celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary should opt for a beautiful, multi-colored aster bouquet.
Main Verieties of Aster Flower
Aster flowers are multi-colored perennials native to southern Europe and North America. Falling into the Aster genus, the flowers are considered to be part of the old world species from the Asteraceae family. Although, scientifically, the blooms were reclassified under completely different genera, horticultural experts still take into consideration the old classification.
Since all the different varieties of aster might discourage you from making a choice, it is important to remember that there are only two main types of aster: the New York and the New England type. However, real green thumbers also divide them into the following categories:
- Lindley’s Aster (Aster ciolatus);
- Many-Flowered Aster (Aster ericoides);
- Willow Aster (Aster hesperius);
- Western Silvery Aster (Aster sericeus);
- Smooth Aster (Aster laevis);
- Topped White Aster (Aster umbellatus).
Other gardeners prefer to take into consideration bloom time, height, and bloom color. Nevertheless, when choosing the type of aster flowers you want to plant in your backyard, you must first decide between the two main types.
- The New York type (Aster nova belgii) tends to have short cultivars. But some can rise up to 4 feet tall, and the stems are thin with smooth flowers.
- On the other hand, the New England type (Aster novae anglias)has cultivars might be short as well with some rising to 3 feet tall, and a thicker stem, dense flowers, and hairy leaves. You need only check the stems and feel their coarseness to make the difference, apart from looking at the ring of flowers. You might be a little confused by the beautiful colors that spring everywhere from the tubular stems. But with a little training, you will be telling the difference in no time.
Other Fun Facts About Aster Flowers
- Even though the great majority of Aster plants are perennials, there are a couple of biennials and annual types;
- Every bush presents itself with simpler, alternate leaves that are almost never lobed. Nevertheless, they can be tooth or un-toothed;
- Alpine asters (Aster alpinus) is one of the few types that bloom in May and June instead of late summer and fall;
- Among the easiest perennials to grow in a garden, the biggest problem of these flowers is powdery mildew.
- Due to their unique color and potent fragrance, these eye-catching blooms are more than often a target for butterflies, bees, and even birds;
- Nonetheless, that works to their advantage as Asters depend on bees, flies, and butterflies to spread their pollen;
- Except for the Bushy Asters which have seeds resembling those of a dandelion. Thanks to those miniature parachutes, the flower can use the power of wind to reach new, fertile places;
- Although the petals come in a plethora of different colors, the center is, with very few exceptions, always yellow.
How to Plant and Grow the Aster Flower
- The seeds must be sown indoors at about 70 degrees F before being transferred to the garden. Germination usually takes between 15 to 30 degrees. It all depends on how much warmth the seeds receive.
- Keep in mind that these flowers do not tolerate extreme cold, so it is best to move them outside during mid-spring to profit from the moisture. However, remember to water them during the summer if you receive less than 1 inch of rain a week.
- Aster flowers usually bloom in late summer or autumn but very much prefer the sun. When planting aster, try selecting a site that benefits from a full sun or at least partial. They can tolerate shade, but they will not bloom as much, and you will not be able to enjoy them in their full vigor.
- The site has to have moist soil, so it needs to be properly drained. A soaked soil will rot the roots of the aster but a very dry soil will cause the flower to wilt. You have to make sure the soil is average to humus-rich.
- Seeing as the bushes are usually broad, it is best to plant Aster flowers about 20 inches apart so that they do not give off a crowded
- Remember to add a thin layer of compost every spring and cut the asters in winter after the foliage dies.
After the Aster Flower Grows
- Every 3 years or so, you should divide your mature clumps during either early spring (before it gets a chance to bloom) or late fall (after the flowering process ends).
- To extend the fall bloom and have a denser plant, it’s best to pinch the tops by about 6 to 8 inches during summer. However, keep in mind that you must do this until mid-July the latest. Any trimming done after that will only lead to a smaller, feebler bush that will wilt away rapidly.
- Avoid powdery mildew by choosing sunny spots where air circulates freely.
- Don’t threat regular pruning. While it may cause the bush to bloom a bit later, the results will be eye-catching, to say the least.
- Be careful of the diseases these plants are susceptible to: powdery mildew, leaf spots, stem cankers, snails. You can control diseases by dividing the asters when planting them in spring.
Aster flowers are a beautiful addition to any garden, and with the proper care, they can thrive undisturbed. Many species are drought resistant and not extremely pretentious.
So even if you’re just at the beginning of your gardening endeavors, keeping in mind a few tips about these flowers will keep them in bloom for a very long time. Just don’t forget to offer them plenty of water, sunlight, and fresh air.
The images are from pixabay.com.