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What You Need To Know About Growing Asters
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The Aster is one of the best flowers to grow for late summer and fall blooms. Asters come in blue, purple, red, pink, and white each with a yellow center. The name Aster comes from the ancient Greek word for “star.” There are numerous varieties of Aster, from Dwarfs that measure less than a foot to tall versions that can reach up to eight feet. All varieties make for good cut flowers that have a long lasting vase life.

Alternatively known as Michaelmas daisy, starwort and frost flower, the Aster is an herbaceous perennial that is indigenous to every continent except Australia and Antarctica and, depending on the variety, are hardy from zone 4 to zone 9.

Aster seeds should be sown in well-draining, average garden soil in a sunny area after the last frost of the season. The plant grows best in full sun. It will tolerate light shade but growth will be less compact and blooming will be less prolific. Sow seeds in rows 15 to 18 inches apart and cover with ¼ inch of soil. Keep the soil evenly moist and seedlings should appear in 14 to 21 days. If you want earlier blooms, start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks prior to the outdoor planting time.

One of the major problems common to the Aster is powdery mildew. There are a couple ways to combat this problem. The first is using an Aster variety that is mildew resistant. There are quite a few to choose from. Another way to prevent powdery mildew is to make sure the plants are in a sunny location with lots of good air circulation. This type of location will in most cases not allow the mildew to take root. If you get a plant with powdery mildew you should seriously consider removing it from your garden as the mildew propagates from spores and can spread throughout your garden. Other treatments include commercially available chemicals.

Maintaining the Aster is relatively simple. In the spring and summer a growing Aster needs regular watering. The soil should be moist but not wet. Use a complete plant food in early spring and pinch back the plants by 6 to 8 inches at the beginning of July to control plant height and encourage branching. This will create a bushier plant and prolong the blooming in the fall. The pinching needs to be done prior to mid-July or it will have the opposite effect and blooming will be reduced. After the Aster has finished blooming cut the plant down to 1 to 2 inches above the ground for the winter.

Once the Aster becomes established it is very hardy but to keep it growing at its best it should be divided every three to four years. To divide an Aster, lift the plants out of the ground and pull the clumps apart into smaller clumps with 3 to 5 shoots in each clump. For the best results, discard the middle section which is older and replant the younger outside sections. The division will lead to strong new growth.

As you can tell, growing Aster is really easy can lead to the most brilliant fall display in your garden. With a good selection of site and following the maintenance outlined above these perennials will deliver you great satisfaction year after year.

Joseph Gillen is a flower gardening enthusiast. For more gardening tips please visit http://www.theonlineflowergarden.com a specialized website devoted to products and information to help you grow the most beautiful flower gardens. For more information on the Aster visit the Aster Page at the TheOnlineFlowerGarden.com Aster Page.


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