Asters have bright, open-faced daisy-like flowers and they are popular with gardeners for their long flowering period that goes through summer and autumn into winter. Flower colour varies from blue, purple, red and pink to white petals surrounding a yellow centre. Asters come in a range of sizes too from low growing, dwarf varieties to monsters that can reach head height. They are popular with bees and butterflies as well as many beneficial predatory insects like hoverflies, lacewings, parasitic wasps and ladybugs. They will not only brighten up your veg garden, they’ll help to make it more productive with these pollinators and helpful insects on hand.
Companions Plant with asparagus, mint, tomatoes, salads
Colour Carpet a dwarf variety which works well in veg gardens along pathways and the edge of beds as well as in containers where their blooms are easily seen by insects. ‘Colour carpet’ has many-petalled double blooms in a variety of colours from white to pink, purple and blue.
Aster x frikartii taller variety, popular at the back of beds and borders. Flowers are violet-blue.
Sow or plant in early spring and summer countrywide.
Asters grow best in full sun. They will handle partial shade but flowering will be less-prolific. To avoid the likelihood of powdery mildew affecting plants ensure a sunny, open position with good airflow.
Asters grow best in a moist, but well drained soil.
Sow indoors in seed raising compost in punnets or trays 6-8 weeks before you want to plant out. Alternatively, sow seed outdoors after soil warms and all risk of frost has passed. Cultivate soil so that it is loose and free from lumps, firm soil gently and then sow seed on the surface - don’t bother covering seeds, just lightly press down on them to ensure good contact with soil. Keep seeds moist during germination.
When your seedlings are about a finger’s length in height and the weather has settled and is reliably warm and sunny, plant seedlings at an average spacing of about a hand’s length apart for dwarf varieties and up to a stride apart for larger varieties. Keep an eye out for slugs.
Water young seedlings in dry periods. Once they are established and starting to grow you shouldn’t need to continue with watering unless weather is persistently dry and young plants show signs of wilting.
Keep picking flowers to prolong blooming.
Asters make good cut flowers so you can enjoy them indoors and out. Leave seed heads on taller varieties for birds in winter.