Asters belong to the sunflower family, and as such regardless of the petal color; each aster flower will come back home with a bright yellow in its center that draws the attention of human spectators, as well as birds, butterflies, and honeybees. If you look closely, you will notice that rather than being one centralized yellow portion, there are actual many tiny yellow flower-lets that comprise the center of each flower, which of course only adds to an aster's charm. Asters are perennial flowers, and will bloom back again in the spring if properly overwintered. Since asters are easily propagated through division, it is easy to wait one season and then have more asters to plant in new places in your garden, or give tiny aster plants as gifts to friends who are fellow gardeners. Learn more about how to grow and care for asters in your own home garden or landscape setting.
Preparing to Plant Asters
An aster is an easy to grow and care for flower that earns its reputation honestly. You can directly seed asters into your garden, or, if temperatures are still cool, start them 6 to 8 weeks early indoors, and then transplant the young seedlings out of doors as soon as spring temperatures arrive. You can also plant asters in pots, hanging baskets, window boxes, or other containers, moving them in and out of doors as the seasons dictate. If you plant asters in the spring time you will be rewarded with lovely blossoms beginning in mid summer and continuing into early fall. Asters come in white, red, pink, and purple, and can grow up to eight feet tall, so adequate space is important to ensure plant health.
Planting and Caring for Asters
To plant, find a location that gets full to partial sunlight. Asters are hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 9, but if the sunlight is too hot then partial shade conditions are preferable. Plant aster seeds or young plants at least a foot and a half apart, making sure that the soil is loose and free of rocks and clumps to a depth of at least half a foot when you do so. Water the young plants or seeds thoroughly. If you are planting young plants, cover the topsoil around each plant with a layer of organic mulch to a thickness of two inches. Once your aster plants are installed, watering once or twice per week will generally suffice unless conditions tend towards drought. Water is an important component as young aster plants are becoming established; even though once the plants are mature they need little maintenance beyond annual winterizing and division.
As asters bloom, you can pinch off the top half a foot or so early in July to encourage re-growth and more blooming. Asters tend to attract fungus, and once a plant is infected it is very hard to treat it. Removal of infected plants is the best strategy, and application of a commercial pesticide to the empty space and surrounding plants should prevent re-infestation.