About New England Aster: Because of its extravagant beauty and hardy growth, the New England Aster is one of the most well known native wildflowers; it makes an excellent addition to prairie restoration plantings, either in wetland or in drier areas. These fuschia flowers light up late fall growth in prairies, roadsides, and ditches. Originally from the Greek language, “aster” means “star.” At one time, asters were called starworts, frost flowers, or Michaelmas daisies; in spite of their daisy-like petals, asters are actually diminutive members of the sunflower family. In the language of flowers, these starry blossoms symbolize elegance or daintiness. They make a traditional gift for birthdays in the month of September, or for 20th wedding anniversaries.
New England Aster Germination: Direct sow the seed in late fall, planting it just under the surface and watering it once. If direct sown in the spring, the seed must be stratified first by mixing it with moist sand and stored in the refrigerator for 60 days. To start the stratified seed indoors, sow it in a flat; keep the soil evenly moist and at a temperature of 65-70 degrees F until germination, which should take place within 14-20 days. Transplant the seedlings after the last frost of spring, placing them 18-24” apart. This plant prefers full sun and rich, well drained soil, but also tolerates sandy soil or clay in partial shade.
Growing New England Aster Seeds: This plant grows best with regular watering, especially in dry weather. Keep in mind that too much moisture may cause root rot. Keep weeds under control, since this plant does not like competition. For bushy, compact growth, prune the plants early in the season before they bud. Mature plants may need staking or support. These asters spread by rhizomes and by reseeding, forming a colony over time if volunteer plants are not removed. Mature plants will benefit from division after two or three years of growth. Cut the stalks down to the ground at the end of the growing season for easier growth in the spring. The flowers attract numerous bees and butterflies, providing a valuable source of nectar in late fall.
Harvesting New England Aster: Asters make lovely cut flowers. Cut the stems long, choosing flowers that have just opened.
Saving New England Aster Seeds: After flowering, the plant will produce seed heads containing small clusters of seed with white fluff. Since sparrows and goldfinches love to eat the seed, harvest it promptly to avoid loss. Cut the mature seed heads, or shake them into a container to remove the seed material. Clean the seed as well as possible, then store it in a cool, dry place.
Detailed New England Aster Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Hardy Aster, Michaelmas Daisy Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Fall Height: 48-60 inches Spacing: 18-24 inches Light: Full Sun to Part Shade Soil Moisture: Wet to Medium USDA Zone: 3a-9b Seeds Per Oz: 71,000 Produces a plant with narrow pointed leaves and abundant, daisy-like flowers that vary from light to bright purple with yellow centers.