Callistephus chinensis, commonly called China aster, is a popular annual that provides showy, 3-5-inch diameter blooms from early summer to autumn on plants clad with ovate, toothed, medium green leaves. These fast-growing plants produce large, fireworks-like blooms in shades of pink, purple, red, magenta and white that are ideal in arrangements.
Callistephus chinensis 'Ostrich Feather' produces voluptuous, blooms of re-curving, petals in rich boudoir colours. It is an old variety, grown for cut flowers in Victorian times that are, once again becoming very fashionable.
It produces large, vigorous heads of flowers with attractively curled interlaced petals in a blend of lovely shades, including violet, pink, red, crimson, lavender-blue and white.
Blooming from late summer to well into autumn, Asters are invaluable for beds and borders,and make an excellent cut flower. These fabulous flowers are easy and fast to grow and are quite irresistible to butterflies and bees.
Sow indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date, or sow directly where they are to flower once the soil has warmed. For a continuous show, you may wish to plant stagger the sowing dates. The seed may also be direct sown in April to May where the plants are to flower, but in this case flowering will start later.
A sunny situation should be chosen for the aster bed, which should be prepared as soon as possible, making sure that drainage is good.
Sowing Indoors: March to April
March and April sowing should be made in gentle heat, sowing into trays of compost, “Just cover” the seeds with a sprinkling of compost or vermiculite.
When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays. Handle the plants with care and avoid disturbing the roots as much as possible when transplanting to prevent wilting.
Gradually harden off for 10 to 14 days before transplanting into the flowering site in early May. Light spring frosts will not harm the plants. Plant 25 to 40cm (10 to 16in) apart.
Direct Sowing: April to May
Sow thinly, 6mm (1/4in) deep in small clumps or shallow drills. Sow 30cm (12in) apart in well-cultivated soil which has been raked to a fine tilth. Water ground regularly, especially in dry periods.
When large enough to handle, thin out seedlings until they are finally 30cm (12in) apart in spring
Outside sowings should be gradually thinned to the same spacings when the seedlings are large enough to handle.
Flowers should be removed as soon as they have faded to promote the growth of further blooms.
Never over water, but do not let the soil dry out. Preventive measures should be taken against aphids.
Plants should not be planted in the same ground two years in a row to avoid Fusarium Wilt. A soil-borne disease that has plagued Asters in the past.
Cut Flowers, Flowers Borders and Beds, Patio and Container Plants.
Cut flowers will last 8 to 10 days in water. Cut when flowers are half-open; recut stems underwater.
Originally from China, this species has undergone much horticultural manipulation to achieve an array of cultivars. The species, or wild, form of China Aster is 75cm (2.5 feet) tall, with simple, single white to violet-blue flowers with yellow centres. Today's cultivated varieties vary in height from 20cm to 1m (8in to 3 feet) tall. The flower heads, up to 12cm (5in) across, are often totally composed of petallike ray flowers, and range in colour from white and pale yellow to pink, rose, red, blue, purple, and violet.
China Aster seeds were first sent to Paris from China in 1728 by a Jesuit priest. This showy annual flower was cultivated in America as early as 1737 by Williamsburg's John Custis and it grew in popularity in European gardens through the 18th century. By 1804 Bernard McMahon of Philadelphia was selling eleven cultivars of Aster chinensis in a variety of “sorts” including double and quilled forms.
The genus name Callistephus comes from the Greek words kalli meaning beautiful and stephos meaning a crown, in reference to the flowers.
There is just the one species in the genus Callistephus. The specific epithet chinensis refers to the plants origin, the country China.
The name Aster comes from the Ancient Greek word astron which arrived through the Latin word astrum, meaning 'star', referring to the shape of the flower head.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 450 seeds Family Asteraceae Genus Callistephus Species chinensis Cultivar Ostrich Feather Synonym Aster chinensis, Aster sinensis Common Name China Aster, Annual Aster Other Common Names Ostrich Plume Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Natural Flower Time Late June to October Height 45 to 55cm (18 to 22in) Spacing 30cm (12in) apart Position Full sun preferred Soil Rich, well draining soil Germination 7 to 14 days at 16-18*C (60-64*F)