About Showy Aster: This New England native has become threatened or endangered in some states, though it can still be found occasionally in coastal, sandy areas or open pine woods. Its bright, unusually large blooms and adaptability to almost any soil make it an excellent choice for home gardens or prairie plantings. 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.
Showy 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 6-8 weeks. 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 or partial shade and medium soil, though it adapts to almost any soil from moist to dry.
Growing Showy Aster Seeds: These plants tolerate drought, though they grow best with regular watering; young plants especially need regular moisture. As the plant grows taller, it tends to become top heavy and may need support or staking. The lower leaves have a tendency to wither in dry weather. Keep weeds under control, since this plant does not like competition. 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 Showy Aster: Asters make lovely cut flowers. Cut the stems long, choosing flowers that have just opened.
Saving Showy 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 Showy Aster Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Eastern Showy Aster, Purple Wood Aster, Seaside Aster Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Fall Height: 12-24 inches Spacing: 9-12 inches Light: Full Sun to Partial Shade Soil Moisture: Medium to Dry USDA Zone: 4a-8b Seeds Per Oz: 75,000 Produces a plant with pointed elliptical 6-7” leaves and loose clusters of 2” bright lavender, daisy-like flowers.