Aster Perennials

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The quintessence of the aster perennials is the Shasta daisy, with its three-inch wide flowers and yellow centers. All asters have plant heads with multiple florets. Primarily fall bloomers, the aster family includes zinnias, dandelions, sunflowers, goldenrod, ragweed, and lettuces.

In planting asters, space the plants from 24 to 36 inches apart to give them ample elbow room. They grow, in ideal conditions, from 36 to 48 inches tall, depending on the variety. The aster perennials we use in our flower gardens love a full-sun exposure, but do perfectly well in partial sun as well.

A Sampling of Aster Perennials

The Shasta daisy in particular, but many others as well, do well combined with other perennials. As you map out your garden beds on paper, you might want to combine asters with phlox, delphinium, or veronica as a background border. Shasta do very well in butterfly gardens. Aster woods purple (Aster x dumosus), which doesn't demand full sun, grows to a compact 12 inches high and produces a rich purple flower. It is particularly effective planted as a border to ornamental grasses. Like so many asters, it is very attractive to butterflies, bees, and birds.

One unusual specimen among the aster perennials is Aster carolinianus, which grows as a vine and blooms in the autumn. Plants are upright, but need support to climb. Its bloom display ranges from lavender to pink, and is especially attractive when climbing over fences and shrubs. The Michaelmas daisy (Aster novi-belgi 'Alert') is a fall bloomer that forms a dense clump of bright crimson-red flowers. Favored in borders, the flowers are small and excellent for cutting.

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