Callistephus chinensis, commonly called China aster, is a popular annual that provides showy, 3 to 5 inch diameter blooms from early summer to autumn on plants clad with ovate, toothed, medium green leaves. These fast-growing plants produce large, firework-like blooms that are easy to grow and ideal in cut flower arrangements.
Callistephus chinensis 'Nova Unicum' is a form that is also known as a Needle or Spider Aster for its unique spider-like flowers. Unicum, meaning 'Unique' produces the largest flower size in this class. Extra large, double quilled blooms in a multitude of colours. Stake strong stems for commercial cut flower production.
The blooms sit upon sturdy 60cm (24in) stems. Easy to grow, asking only a sunny spot in the garden, they will provide cut flowers throughout summer. The mix include shades of white to pink, red, blue, violet, purple and yellow.
Blooming from late summer to well into autumn, Asters are are easy to grow and invaluable for the middle of mixed borders, in addition they make excellent cut flowers that last a long time in the vase. These large-flowered Asters with their unusual form, make a spectacular bouquet all by themselves.
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 Nova Unicum Synonym Needle Aster Common Name China Aster, Annual Aster Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Flowers White, Salmon, Pale Pink, Deep Rose, and Blue. Natural Flower Time Late June to October Height 75 to 80cm (30 to 32in) Position Full sun preferred Soil Rich, well draining soil Germination 7 to 14 days at 16 to 18*C (60-64*F)