China Aster Cultivation: Information About China Asters In Gardens
By: Liz Baessler
If you’re looking for big, beautiful blooms for your garden or kitchen table, the China aster is a great choice. The China aster (Callistephus chinensis) is an easy-to-grow annual with bright colors and big yields that make it ideal for cutting. Keep reading for some information about China asters that will get you on the way to growing your own.
China Aster Flowers
China aster flowers come in reds, pinks, purples, blues, and whites, with big, puffy blossoms measuring 3-5 inches across. The heavily-clustered petals are thin and pointed, which often gets the flowers confused with mums or regular asters.
China aster flowers are especially popular in India because of their bright colors, and are often used in bouquets and flower arrangements.
What Are Growing Conditions For China Aster Plants?
Growing conditions for China aster are easy and very forgiving. China aster plants prefer well-drained, loamy soil, but they can be grown in most soil types. They thrive in anything from full sun to partial shade, and need only moderate watering.
China aster plants can grow from 1 to 3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. They can be planted directly in your garden, but they work very well in containers too.
China Aster Cultivation
China aster plants can be started from seed or purchased as seedlings. In most climates, the China aster produces flowers only in spring and fall, so unless you want to start seeds indoors, purchasing and transplanting seedlings is the best way to ensure spring blossoms.
Plant the seedlings outdoors after all chance of frost has passed, and water every 4-5 days. Soon you’ll have large, striking blossoms that can be cut for arrangements or just left in the garden to provide a splash of color.
If your China aster plant stops flowering in the heat of summer, don’t give up on it! It will pick up again with the cooler fall temperatures. If you live in a climate with cool summers, you should have China aster flowers all season long.
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How to Grow China Aster
Attractive in mixed flower beds, borders, planters and window boxes, China asters (Callistephus chinensis) produce bright double blooms throughout the summer and early fall. This annual flower comes in shades of white, pink, purple, red, yellow and blue. China aster performs best in full sunlight or light shade and fast-draining nutrient-rich soils. With the proper care, China aster plants will produce continuous blooms that will brighten the landscape.
Water China asters every seven to ten days or when the soil dries to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Do not water during periods of heavy rainfall. Keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy, as the roots will rot with too much moisture.
Fertilize the plants with a 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer every 14 days throughout the growing season. Mix 1 tablespoon fertilizer with 1 gallon water. Pour the fertilizer directly onto the ground around the plants. Apply at a rate of one-quarter gallon for every 2 square feet of soil. Count the fertilizer application as a watering.
Pull weeds near the asters as soon as they appear. Spread a 1-inch layer of mulch around the plants with a rake. Keep the mulch 2 to 3 inches from the plants' stems to prevent them from rotting.
Clip off the terminal buds with a pair of pruning snips from each plant one month after their planting date. Make the cut just above the second set of leaves. This will encourage lateral branching and increase flower bud formation.
Cut off spent flowers as soon as possible with pruning snips. Cut just above the first set of leaves located underneath the bloom. Regular deadheading will encourage the plants to keep blooming.
Check the leaves each time you water for aphids, scales, leafhoppers and whiteflies. Spray the leaves periodically with a steady stream of water to wash off dust and grime that attract these insects. Wash small populations off the leaves with water. Spray heavily infested plants with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to kill the insects.
Information on Callistephus and Commonly Grown Garden Varieties
There is only one member of the Callistephus genus, the China Aster (Callistephus chinensis). As the name suggests the plant is a native of China.
Plants carry long, toothed ovate leaves of about two to three inches in length (5 to 8 cm) and usually have chrysanthemum like flowers, though some varieties may have only simple ray florets. In many cases the central disc florets are yellow in colour. Outer petals are of many colours purple, red and pink are very common. The original native species carries single white flowers.
As it is a popular garden plant there are many different varieties available, meaning that the species is available with many different petal colours and sizes dwarf varieties may be as little as 8 inches (20 cm) taller varieties may reach 32 inches (80 cm).
Some of the commonly grown varieties of Callistephus chinensis include Lilliput blue moon, Pink tower, Ostrich plume, Blue ribbon, Hulk, Red ribbon and Seastar.
As a member of Asteraceae (Compositae) (the daisy family) Callistephus is closely related to species such as Chrysanthemum, Calendula, Tagetes, and Dahlia.
Once established, they require little watering, unless conditions have become unusually dry and the plants show signs of stress. New York aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) cultivars have shallow roots and may need more frequent watering during the summer, especially when planted in free-draining soils. Keep soil moist, but not saturated. Mulching to reduce water loss is an important strategy for preventing disease.
Pinching back stems, or deadheading, several times before mid-July helps to control plant height, promote bushiness, and encourages blooming through the entire season. Leave a few wilted blooms at the end of the season if you want them to self-sow. Learn more about pinching and deadheading here: Pruning Garden Shrubs and Perennials.
Taller stemmed varieties may require staking.
Some gardeners say a layer of organic mulch will supply all the nutrients they need, while others suggest a light application of an organic fertilizer at the start of their growing season. Do not apply fertilizer once they have started blooming as it may shorten the bloom time.
Whether you’re dividing to control the size or to propagate them, do it in spring just as new shoots are emerging. This will give them the entire growing season to overcome the shock. The frequency of division varies depending on the species and cultivar, but most will benefit from division every 2 to 4 years.
Pests and diseases:
In some areas foliar rust and powdery mildew can be a problem, while lace bugs pose the biggest threat when it comes to pest damage.
Little or none for annual asters. Many perennial asters are very cold hardy.
Encourage fast growth by mixing a balanced organic fertilizer into the soil before planting. Take care not to overfeed China asters, which may not bloom well when given too much nitrogen.
Zinnia and Sunflower. Use China asters as feature plants for the late summer garden, but do not crowd them.
Single Plants: 11″ (30cm) each way (minimum)
Rows: 11″ (30cm) with 11″ (30cm) row gap (minimum)
Sow and Plant
When starting China aster seeds indoors in early spring, cover them well with moist seed starting mix. China asters also can be direct-sown in late spring, after the soil has warmed.
Providing some type of grow-through support for China asters helps to keep the plants upright in late summer, when they become heavy with blooms. Blossom colors include pink, purple, lavender, white, and red.
Gather China asters for flower arrangements when the blooms are just beginning to open. When kept in fresh water, new petals will unfold for two weeks.
Leafhoppers spread disease among asters. Where this is a problem, cover plants with row cover (garden fleece) during the first half of the growing season.
How to Grow Asters
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault
It's a cruel trick of Mother Nature that that most glorious weather of the gardening season coincides with the decline of most blooming plants. Asters, however, don't play along with the prank. Like garden mums, asters flower in response to the shortening days of fall, giving gardeners a beautiful display of buds that can bloom from August through October. Native to North America, asters comprise many species in several different genera of plants, as well as dozens of cultivars, but for gardeners, asters are simply great flowers that provide purple or blue daisy-like flowers late in the season.
Although home and garden centers often market asters as a seasonal purchase among displays of pumpkins and hay bales, asters are long-lived perennials that can become a permanent part of your landscape. Though aster flowers have that wildflower look, they are also beautiful in cut-flower arrangements. People aren't the only ones who find asters attractive—pollinators such as bees and butterflies also love aster flowers. If planted in the fall, they can be a rare source of late-season nectar, making them a crucial flower for pollinators.
Asters can be planted almost any time of the year, though spring is typical since that's when potted nursery plants are readily available. These fast-growing perennials will be ready to put on a good fall display in their first year, and once established, they will hold their own for many years.
How to Grow Callistephus
If planning to grow Callistephus then the seeds should be lightly covered once sown. Sow in the spring, following the last frost.
If you plan to grow China Aster and similar as seedlings indoors for later transplanting then they should be germinated at a temperature of 18 to 21°C for two weeks. Seeds should be sown in peat pots in a vermiculite mix and water supplied from below.
After about seven or eight weeks the seedlings can be planted in the garden in an area of partial shade or full sun with a spacing of 20 cm (dwarf) 40 cm (medium) or 60 cm for larger species.
They prefer to grow in a rich soil that has good drainage, and a pH of 6 to 7.