Aster

Aster, a perennial plant in the sacandaga lake areaAster sp.

These hardy perennials can make it though the harshest winters the Adirondacks can dish out. And although they are tough, they have a soft side, too! Asters are butterfly magnets, making them a wonderful candidate for your Adirondack garden.

Asters come in a wide range of colors, including blues, purples, pinks, and white, and most have yellow centers. This range of colors, along with their long, hardy stems, make them a perfect cut flower. Asters begin to bloom in mid-summer and continue to produce blooms until frost. Some varieties of aster don’t grow more than a foot tall, while others can reach heights of two feet or more. Check with your garden center or seed packet for the expected height of your species of aster.

Care

Asters are a perennial, so they will come back year after year with little care. Average soil is suitable for growing aster, but they should be planted in an area that gets full sunlight and decent moisture.

Sow aster seeds early in the season (start them indoors and transplant the seedlings in early spring, if possible). Seedlings should be covered lightly with soil, at a depth of twice the seed’s width. If starting indoors, sow them about 6 weeks before the last frost (sow in mid-March in our area). They germinate in 2-4 weeks and continue to grow rapidly until mid-summer when they begin to bloom.

Plant smaller aster species 4-6 inches apart. Larger species of aster require more room; up to two feet.

Although unnecessary, removing dead blooms is beneficial to the plant’s growth. During it’s first year, nipping blooms in the bud helps to strengthen the plant. This promotes better root development, which means your plants are more likely to come back strong for many years to come!

Dividing your aster plants every 2-3 years helps to control the size of the plant and keep it healthy. The best time to divide your asters is in the spring. Dig up the plant, loosen the roots, and divide into 2-3 parts. You can use your new plants to expand your own garden, or gift them to friends and family!

Classification and History

The Aster genus includes more than 180 species of plants. Aster alpinus is the only species native to North America, but many varieties are available from garden centers and seed distributors. The name Aster comes from the ancient Greek word for star, referring to the star-burst like shape of the flower.

Other common names for aster include starworts, Michaelmas daisies and frost flowers.

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