What is a China Aster?
Known scientifically as Callistephus chinensis, Aster China is a flowering, ornamental plant of the monotypic genus. It is also known as annual aster, aster Chinensis, China aster, aster paeony or aster pompon. The plant belongs to the Asteraceae family of asters.
Aster China Etymology
The name Aster China was obtained from an ancient Greek word 'aster', meaning 'star' and the fact that the plant is native to China. It has a star-shaped flower head and is popular for its deep colors, making it a beautiful ornamental plant with sweet fragrance.
China Aster Description
Although Aster China is cultivated worldwide, it is native to Korea and China. The biennial or annual plant features a stem without branches that can grow up to 100cm in height. It has alternate leaves in varying sizes and shapes. Just prior to flowering, the basal China aster leaves usually fall off the plant.
China Aster flower colors include light blue, white, purple, yellow, red, apricot, green and magenta. The plants also range in sizes from dwarf (6 to 12 inches in height) and medium to tall (3 feet) cultivars. The latter makes perfect flower cuttings. They can also have one, double or semi-double flower heads.
Measuring 4 to 6 inches in diameter, the Aster pompon flowers are mum-shaped with petals that resemble quills. The plant's stem towards the middle feature leaves on petioles, measuring just a few centimeters in length. The herbaceous leaves are smooth at the top edges and feature serrated blade edges.
Large, single flowers bloom either on the branches (rarely) or at the top of Aster China stems. The flower heads feature phyllaries in several layers. Whereas inner phyllary layers are purple-tinged, those in the outer layers are large and resemble leaves; the latter can grow up to 3 cm long.
The flower heads also feature about one or two ray floret rings in reddish-purple hues. However, ray florets make up China Aster colors that vary, ranging from pink, red or blue to white or purple, depending on the particular cultivar or variety. The florets can grow up to 3.5 cm in length.
At the center of flower heads are several disc-shaped yellow florets. Aster China fruits are glandular and rough in texture with a cypsela mottled in purple; however, the latter grays as the fruit matures. The fruit pappus has white-bristled inner layers and reddish scales on the outer layer.
China aster plant species is naturalized in Europe, Australia, Indochina, New Zealand and North America, among other areas outside its native habitat. The ornamental plant has been grown widely globally and extensively bred to produce various cultivars. Flower height, colors and number of heads (one or two) vary from one cultivar to another.
Diseases and Pests
Although Aster China is susceptible to fungal diseases such as the fusarium wilt (soil borne) and aster yellows (spread by leafhoppers), resistance to diseases vary from cultivar to cultivar. Common pests include mites, blister beetles, leafhoppers, tarnished plant bugs and aphids.
Planting in different soils every growing season can prevent fungal diseases. Fungicides can also help with treatment. The Matsumoto Violet-Striped Aster variety gives exceptional cut flower quality and is wilt resistant. The flowers have brightly-colored white and purple petals with large, yellow-colored centers.
The flowers measure 1.5 inches in diameter, have a long bloom time that extends with every cut bloom or deadhead.
China Aster Cultivation
The diverse nature of Aster China make them popular among gardeners. Cultivars vary in flower sizes, plant height, colors and forms to meet the unique needs of every gardener out there. The brightly colored summer flowers are beautiful with extended blooms from the onset of summer to fall.
The plants can be grown in containers, pots or raised garden beds. They can be grown indoors or placed outdoors in decks or patios to beautify landscapes. Short varieties of the cool weather annual plants can be used for edging whereas long varieties are ideal for front, middle or back garden borders.
Annual Aster seeds are easy to grow and take 10 to 20 days to germinate. They're planted indoors after the last frost for about 6 to 7 weeks before being taken outdoors. The plant does well in well-drained, evenly-moist alkaline soils under the full sun. Moist seed starting mix and transplanting are also direct ways of planting the seed.
Although blooms vary from mid-summer to when fall comes to an end, most China aster varieties bloom for 3 weeks to one month. Maximum blooms are achieved by planting different China Aster varieties two weeks apart. The shallow-rooted plants are mulched to ensure they don't dry out.
Proper air circulation keeps the plants disease-free. It also thrives in hardiness zones 2 to 11 and heat zones 1 to 9. Popular Chinese Aster cultivars include the Serenade Mix, Ribbon series, Super Baby Series and Milady.
China Aster has average water needs and requires low maintenance, making it even more appealing to gardeners. They're frost tolerant and can be covered with plant covers until the weather improves.
Want to brighten your garden or home with the beautiful Aster China flowers? Browse through our gardening tools and supplies to get your work started.