What Is An Aster?
Aster is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, native to temperate regions of Europe and Asia. The name comes from the Greek word asteros meaning star or constellation, referring to the shape of the flower heads.
They are often planted as late-flowering beauties which are still growing strong when most perennials have finished for the season.
How Many Kinds of Aster Are There?
There are about 180 species of Aster, and countless cultivars within them.
Asters are a cornerstone of garden flowers. They are still flowering long after most summer flowers are fading or have died back altogether.
There are many types of Aster that can be grown successfully in your garden. Some are annuals, some biennials, and others perennial.
Some varieties are suitable for cooler climates, while others thrive in hot, sunny conditions.
The two you might be familiar with are the Michaelmas daisy, or New York aster, and the New England aster.
The New York aster is a very popular plant because it blooms in the last few weeks of summer, well into autumn. It’s also easy to grow and has great fall color.
It grows best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.
The New England aster is another favorite among gardeners. It’s an excellent choice for well-draining, sunny soil. This type blooms in the height of summer, fading just as the weeks stretch into autumn.
You can also get European and Eurasian asters. European asters are particularly resistant to powdery mildew, which many asters are vulnerable to.
Eurasians are more compact than other types of asters, making them ideal for smaller gardens.
They’re also extremely hardy, surviving temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
For best results, choose a cultivar that is native to your country, or one that will happily live in similar conditions.
For those asters which prefer warmer temperatures, you can grow these as annual bedding plants, where they will provide a lot of color and drama to your garden.
Why Are Asters So Popular?
Asters are so popular because they provide a sea of color into your garden without you needing to babysit them.
There are countless varieties to choose from, some of which are suitable as ground cover, only reaching about a foot tall, while others can get up to 2 meters in height.
These are all beautiful additions to any garden, adding texture and drama to the landscape.
Asters are also hardy perennials, able to withstand harsh winters and dry summers.
Where Should You Grow Asters?
The type of aster you pick will dictate its care. Wood asters are perfect for dappled shade, or under larger plants, but this is the exception to the rule.
Most asters require the sunniest position possible, in well-draining soil.
You can grow them in pots or in the ground. In the ground, they will be able to spread out, and some varieties can act like a carpet of color.
Different cultivars also have different advantages. For example, some have a good resistance to powdery mildew and other diseases.
Other cultivars are more tolerant of drought, or frost. These are ideal for drier areas which don’t see a lot of rainfall, or those which get harsher winters.
Aster Varieties You Should Try Growing Yourself
Here are some of our favorites:
New York Aster ‘Dwarf Everlasting’
This variety is a compact form of the New York aster, and is perfect for small spaces.
It’s one of the easiest varieties to grow yourself.
It’s a good choice for shady areas where other types may struggle.
New England Aster ‘Little Marvel’
This variety was developed by Thomas Rivers at Cornell University, and is known for its bright yellow blooms.
It’ll bloom throughout the summer months, making it ideal for those who don’t want to wait until September for their first showings.
Wood Aster ‘Blue Star’
This is a classic wood aster, and is often used as a specimen plant.
It’d make a great addition to woodland gardens, providing a splash of color in the spring, then fading away over time.
Perennial Aster ‘Autumn Beauty’
This is one of the most famous perennial asters, and is widely available.
Its large flowers come in shades of orange, red, purple, and white.
They’re ideal for adding color to borders, rockeries, and meadows.
Michaelmas Daisy ‘White Giant’
This variety is a classic, and is widely available. It’s a good option if you need something reliable and dependable.
It’d make a nice addition to a border, or even a rock garden.
Aromatic Aster ‘Wild Blue Aster’
Ranging from one to three feet in height, this aster makes a great focal point in any garden.
It has a tidy growth habit. The leaves are usually a deep green, but they may also take on a yellow tinge. Each leaf is covered in silvery hair.
The flowers are a rich blue, and form in clusters.
Pompom Aster ‘Moonshine’
This type of aster features much larger flowers, at around 5cm wide. These beautiful blooms are available in purples and blues, with nearly countless petals in a ruffled flower head, not dissimilar to a dahlia.
They’re not particularly fragrant, but they do attract lots of pollinators, such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Aster ‘First Snow’
Featuring a very compact growth habit, staying low to the ground, and brilliant white flowers, this variety is an excellent choice for smaller spaces.
It’s also easy to grow, and requires no special attention.
This variety is a hybrid between the common garden asters and the wildflower asters. It’s hardy and can be grown outdoors year round.
It’s a good choice for colder climates, and is resistant to many pests.
Siberian Aster ‘Celestial’
This variety is known for its spectacularly bright pink flowers that last well into autumn.
It’s a good selection for cooler regions, and will survive in USDA zones 4-9.
This variety is another popular choice for outdoor gardens. Its foliage is dark green, and it grows up to 2m tall.
Each stem sports dozens of daisy-like flowers, which turn a vibrant shade of gold during fall.
Aster ‘Coombe Violet’
This variety is perfect for small gardens, as it only reaches 1m in height. It’s also drought tolerant, so it won’t wilt under hot conditions.
It’s a good pick for sunny spots, and comes in a lovely purple violet color.
This variety is best suited for cool climates, as it doesn’t tolerate heat.
It’s also drought tolerant, so it’s ideal for low-maintenance gardens or areas that get very little rainfall.
Aster ‘Tall Tumbleweed’
This variety is a dwarf variety, growing just 30cm high. It’s also frost-tolerant, making it suitable for areas where temperatures drop below freezing.
It’ll bloom all summer long, and produces masses of tiny white flowers.
Aster ‘Lemon Drop’
This variety is similar to the Tricolor Aster, except it’s more compact and less vigorous.
It’ll reach about 50cm in height, and produce a profusion of lemon-yellow flowers.
Aster ‘Silver Queen’
This variety is ideal for shady locations, as it doesn‘t require direct sunlight.
It’s also frost-tolerant, so it can be planted outside in winter.
Asters are perfect for injecting a lot of color into your garden, whether you choose to go for ground cover varieties that will suppress weeds and fill in the gaps in your borders, or you pick larger varieties that can be their own focal points.
You can also plant them in containers if you like. The options are limitless with these gorgeous flowers.