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Top off the garden season with Michaelmas daisies
The Michaelmas daisy is a favourite border plant for adding colour late in the season. You can even enjoy colourful Michaelmas daisies on the patio or balcony because these hardy perennials also thrive in pots and baskets.
From North America to Europe
There are more than 200 species of asters. Most of the Michaelmas daisies originated in North America but they feel right at home in European gardens. Reaching heights of 20 to more than 150 cm and even taller, the tops of their sturdy stems are decorated with delicate little composite flowers that can be almost any colour of the rainbow. With such variety, you’ll never tire of asters! Aster novaea-angliae and Aster novi-belgii are the most familiar ones. Other gems are the unusual dark-leafed Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis or a Heath aster, Aster ericoides ‘Lovely’, covered entirely with tiny pink flowers.
Did you know that… Michaelmas daisies flower from August until the first ground frost? These profusely flowering plants will keep the border beautiful even longer.
Beds and borders
Michaelmas daisies sparkle in beds and borders when combined with other perennials. Try placing colourful asters next to Crane’s bill (Geranium), Knotweed (Persicaria amplexicaulis), Fairy Candle (Actaea simplex) and Monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii). There are so many kinds of asters that it would be easy to use them to make an entire aster border. Try to alternate light and darker colours as much as possible, and arrange large-flowered varieties next to smaller-flowered ones. This way, you’ll automatically get beautiful combinations when the stems intertwine as they grow.
Michaelmas daisies look especially nice against plants with a more open habit. For this reason, ornamental grasses are at the top of the list as good companions. You could plant Aster novii-belgii, for example, next to a large clump of ornamental grass known as Molina arundinacea ‘Windspiel’. The yellow autumn colour of the grass creates a striking background for the complementary colour – violet – of the asters. Other suitable ornamental grasses would include Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) and Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima).
Planting and care
Michaelmas daisies are strong reliable perennials that emerge and flower year after year. Flowering Michaelmas daisies can be planted immediately in the garden in the autumn. It’s easier to determine where the plants will look their best when they are flowering, but they can also be planted in the spring. A location in full sun or light shade will promote profuse flowering. Asters prefer loose rich soil. Simply trimming away any dead stems in the spring is all the care they need.
- Aster ageratoides is one of the sturdiest species; this Michaelmas daisy will actually thrive anywhere. ‘Starshine’ is a compact variety (50-60 cm) and starts producing hundreds of white star-like flowers in August. ‘Asran’, 70-80 cm tall, produces bluish-purple flowers until sometime in October.
- Low-growing varieties of A. dumosus form a cushion of bright violet-blue flowers. This makes them a perfect choice for a small garden.
Did you know that… Michaelmas daisies are included in the top 10 butterfly plants? Their late-season flowering period makes them attractive to bees and butterflies. These colourful flutterers will often be seen sipping the nectar from the flowers.