Aster

Asters come in many varieties of size and shape but are mostly known for their daisy-like, star shaped flowers.

With summer gone, you can still have a colorful garden of flowers if you plant asters. Asters come in many varieties of size and shape but are mostly known for their daisy-like, star shaped flowers. Most asters are a variety of purple flowers. These plants are perennial so they will return every year.

These little beauties will bloom in the summer and fall usually until the first frost. Most asters grow to 8-10 inches high and are excellent as a border plant. Be sure to check the maximum height of the plant’s growth as some hybrid asters can grow to six feet tall.

Asters will attract a variety of butterflies and bees which pollinators need in late summer and autumn. I also had hummingbirds visiting my asters this summer. Asters are non-toxic to pets such as cats or dogs and deer do not seem to like eating aster. Unfortunately, asters can be a ‘salad buffet’ for rabbits. You may find all your blooms gone one morning. The aster is not dying but rabbits have found their evening meal.

Planting asters is easy since they can be planted in the fall or spring. Asters should be planted in a sunny/partial shade area and at least one to three feet apart as they multiply and spread. They have underground rhizomes which spread every year. They also can reseed themselves unless you trim the dead flowers regularly. Some people use them as ground cover or as a border plant since many plants do not grow very high [8-12 inches], require little maintenance and will spread naturally. After planting be sure to mulch and always water the plant at the soil level – not on the leaves as this could cause them to rot or turn yellow. Mulching around the plant will keep the soil cool and weed free. Only water the plant weekly if you have not had at least an inch of rain each week. It is easy to over-water asters which cause them to lose foliage or reduce flowering and even cause root rot.

Asters have a long blooming period as long as you care for them. My asters started blooming in late June and still have an abundance of flowers today. You can cut the flowers to use in a bouquet for your home. Many people are afraid of pruning their plants because they think they may die but plants love to be pruned. If you dead head [remove the dead flowers] weekly from your aster, they will produce more flowers quickly. Also, by cutting back the long sprigs, the plant will have a bushier growth and more blooms.

After the first frost the plant will die, and you can cut them down at the base of the plant. Be sure to mulch and place a marker where the plant resides as you may forget and then be surprised next spring when it sprouts forth where you intended to plant another flower. I have been surprised more than once in the spring when I forgot what I had planted the previous year.

In the spring, either fertilize or place some compost around the plant and mulch again. This will help the plants growth. Perennials are plants that need to be divided or propagated every 2-3 years. This helps the plant to retain growth and produce more flowers. Propagating is easy to do. I dig up the plant and separate it into 2-3 plants. Replace one of the plants in the ground where it was previously, and they remaining plants can be planted in another part of your garden, or you can put them in a pot and give to you friends or neighbors.

Diane Walton is one of many UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteers of Cherokee County. For more information or questions contact the Cherokee County Extension Office at 770-721-7803 or for upcoming seminars follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cherokeemastergardeners or on our website at cherokeemastergardeners.com.

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