Native to Asia
China Aster (Callistephus chinensis) is a beautiful, fragrant annual native to Asia but cultivated throughout North America. The word “aster” comes from the ancient Greek word for “star” referring to the shape of the flower’s head. A member of the Asteraceae family and Callistephus genus, the china aster is known for its deep, rich colors including white, yellow, light blue, magenta, red, purple, green and apricot. It is available in several forms (with single, semi-double or double blooms) and sizes (dwarf, reaching 6-12” compact mounds; medium; and tall, growing to 3’, making superb cut flowers). The blossoms are mum-shaped, up to 4-6” in diameter, with quill-like petals. Its leaves are herbaceous and smooth-textured.
Growing Recommendations - China Aster
China aster is easy to grow from seeds, which should be sown 6-7 weeks indoors before planting after the last frost. The seeds will germinate in 10-20 days at about 70 degrees. China aster prefers slightly alkaline, well-drained soil and full sun, so it is best planted in a sunny border or cutting garden. Most varieties bloom only for 3-4 weeks and their bloom times vary from mid summer to late fall: choosing different varieties and staggering sow dates two weeks apart will ensure maximum blooms. Although it is resistant to deer, china aster is particularly susceptible to two disease problems: aster yellows (carried by leaf hoppers) and wilt, a soil-borne disease. To avoid wilt, don’t plant in the same soil two years in a row and treat with fungicide at the first sign of disease (the leaves will turn yellowish). One variety that is known for its wilt resistance and excellent cut flower quality is the Matsumoto Violet Striped aster. This flower has a large yellow center with a 1 ½ “ bloom of bright purple and white petals. Matsumoto also has a long bloom time, from mid summer to late fall, with extended blossoming when blooms are cut or deadheaded.