Callistephus: China aster

Height 15-75cm (6-30in)

Planting distance 30-45cm (12-18in)

Flowers mid summer till first frosts

Well-drained garden soil

Open sunny position

Half-hardy annual

Just one species, Callistephus chinensis, is responsible for the many varieties of China asters on the market – tall and dwarf, single-flowered and double-flowered, mixed colours or one colour. The flowers look like a cross between a daisy and a chrysanthemum and come in shades of pink, red, mauve, blue, cream and white. Flowering from mid summer till the first frosts, they are excellent for providing colour in borders and containers and as they last well in water, they are also suitable for cutting.

Popular varieties

The tall varieties of Chinese aster reach 50-75cm (20-30in) high, the dwarf varieties 15-30cm (6-12in). Single blooms have a clearly visible central disc while double blooms have more petals which conceal the centre.

TALL VARIETIES

‘All Change’ has double pomponlike flowers bicoloured red and white or blue and white.

‘Andrella’ has single, many-petalled flowers in white, rose, scarlet, lavender or blue with prominent yellow centres.

‘Devon Riviera’ is a colour mixture of double, chrysanthemum like blooms.

‘Duchess’ is late-flowering, good for cutting and with flowers like incurved chrysanthemums in shades of rose-pink, yellow, crimson, blue and pure white.

‘Florette Champagne’ has quilled flowers of soft creamy-pink on sturdy stems.

‘Germannia’ grows up to 75cm (2!/2ft), with fully double flowers as much as 12.5cm (5in) across, in white, yellow, pink, cerise, mid and dark blue.

‘Gusford Supreme’, 38cm (15in) tall, is wilt-resistant, with scarlet white-centred flowers.

‘Nova’ bears elegant double flowers of slender, needle-like petals in shades of yellow, scarlet, mauve and pink.

‘Operetta’ is a colour mixture of large, double chrysanthemum like flowers with incurved petals.

‘Ostrich Plume’ has double flowers with curled and feathery petals in a range of colours.

‘Pastel’ is a wilt-resistant mixture with double flowers in soft pastel shades.

‘Powderpuffs’ produces upright, compact plants with an abundance of tightly double flowers in shades of pink, blue and purple as well as white.

‘Super Princess Symphonie’ is a colour mixture with large flowers that have tightly quilled petals.

DWARF VARIETIES

‘Blue Skies’ grows only about 15cm (6in) high but is almost smothered with a mass of double, pale lavender-blue flowers.

‘Carpet Ball’ has tightly packed, double flowers in a good colour range.

‘Comet’ is an early-flowering mixture, with double flowers in white and shades of blue and red.

‘Crimson Sunset’ bears double, deep red flowers.

‘Lilliput Duet’ has small pomponlike flowers in rose, carmine, pink and blue.

‘Milady’ has large double incurved chrysanthemum-like flowers in a range of rich colours; long-lasting and especially weather resistant.

‘Pink Bedder’ has double, bright rose-coloured blooms.

‘Pinocchio’ is a compact seed mixture, bearing a mass of small, double, ball-shaped blooms.

‘Teisa Stars’ bears large double flowers with long quilled petals in a range of colours; 23cm (10in) tall and good for cutting.

‘White Bedder’ has pure white, double flowers on 15cm (6in) high, compact plants.

Cultivation

Sow the seeds under glass in early spring at 16°C (61°F). Harden off before planting out in late spring. Alternatively sow directly in the flowering site in mid spring and thin tall varieties to 38-45cm (15-18in) apart, and dwarf varieties to 30cm (12in) apart.

Choose an open sunny site with shelter from wind for the taller varieties. A medium loam is best, though ordinary garden soil still gives good results.

Remove the first dead flowers to encourage blooms on the side shoots.

Pests and diseases

Callistephus wilt may attack plants as they are about to flower – avoid using the same bed two years running to deter this disease. Foot and root rot may cause the seedlings or mature plants to collapse. Caterpillars and aphids can be a problem.

22. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles | Comments Off on Callistephus: China aster

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