The aster flower genus – which is a member of the asteraceae family – once carried over 600 species of blooms; however, after much research the genus was divided, and there are now only 180 species that reside in this genus. All the same, the aster flower remains a remarkably varied and flamboyant bloom, regardless of the species. Some of the more common types include Italian aster, which tends toward a light, almost pastel, purple; the Jenny aster, which comes in vivid reds, and the sky blue aster, which, as its name suggests, is a stunning shade of bright blue.
The name of the aster flower is culled from the ancient Greek word for “star.” This is largely due to the shape of the flower’s head; however, it is also because they grow in a spotted abundance and have an appearance similar to that of the stars in the sky. In mythology, asters were said to have grown from the tears of the goddess Asterea while she wept for the lack of stars on earth. Historically, aster flowers have had many uses. One of the best known is their use as a symbol when placed upon the graves of French soldiers; these flowers were meant to represent a reversal of the outcome of their battles. In ancient times these flowers were smoked, as it was thought that the smokey perfume would ward off wicked serpents. Asters may also be used for their strong medicinal properties. Some varieties of this flower are said to help with migraines, general headaches and colds, while others can aid in treating the pain of sciatica and muscle spasms.
In addition to having a wide array of colors to choose from, the aster flower also has a good deal of meaning to go alongside its good looks. In general, the aster is considered a symbol of patience, daintiness, and a love of variety. Others state that this flower is an emblem for refinement and elegance. As a gift, asters placed in a bouquet with complementing flowers can be representative of love and admiration. They are often given to those born in September, or those celebrating a 20th wedding anniversary. As a more unique gift, you might present a single fresh or dried flower to a lover or friend as a love charm, as asters were thought by some ancient Greeks to hold the mystic power of drawing forth affection.
Asters are easily grown from division. Aster plants do best if divided every two to three years. Simply dig out half to two thirds of the plants, leaving the remainder in place. Then separate the portion you dug out into two sections and plant in another location or give them to a friend.
Aster seeds can also be directly seeded into your flower garden, or seeded indoors for transplanting later. We recommend planting Asters in pots and containers indoors, then transplanting the seedlings outdoors in early spring. This allows you to make the proper spacing.
Sow Aster seeds early in the season, and cover lightly with soil. Water thoroughly once. They germinate easily and will grow quickly, producing their first of a continual display of blooms by mid-summer.
Transplant Asters into your garden into an area where they can be grown for years. Spacing depends upon size with miniature varieties spaced four to six inches apart, and Giant varieties one to two feet apart. Place smaller varieties around the front of your flower garden as a border. Put larger varieties towards the back of the flowerbed.
How to Grow Asters:
Aster plants will grow well in average soils. But, like all plants, they will reward your with bigger blooms and a healthier plant if you add plenty of compost. Also, add a general purpose fertilizer once a month.
Once your Aster are established, they should grow well for years. Soil should be moist, but not wet. They will withstand dry periods. Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week to keep growth vibrant.
Add mulch around the plants for appearance and to keep weeds down.
Around mid to late summer, your plants will begin to produce flowers and will continue to do so until frost. You do not need to remove dead flower blooms, except to improve plant appearance. For giant varieties, trim back any stalks that have become gangly in appearance.
Cuttings for Indoors:
Asters have sturdy stalks that make them good candidates for flower vases and other arrangements. Cut the stem low, check for insects hiding in the flower, on the stem and under the leaves. Bring them indoors and place in water immediately.
For smaller varieties, use a small container or vase and cut stem a couple inches long. Bunch up a variety of colors for an eye-appealing arrangement. Add a small sprig or two of Baby's Breath.
Remember Asters, when creating container gardens for your deck or porch. They are excellent candidates.
Insect and Disease:
Asters are somewhat resistant to insects and disease. If insect or disease problems occur, treat early with organic or chemical insect repellents and fungicide.
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