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Aster

Aster (ass-ter) Michael-Daisy, Daisy Family (Compositae). Perennial asters are familiar and cherished summer and autumn wild flowes found over a large part of the continent. They grow in wet and dry places, and at many altitudes. Simple, alternate leaves from 2 to 6 inches long. Asters range in height from 6 inches to 6 feet, with flower heads that are 1/4 to 4 inches across. The small, daisylike blooms in loose heads are pretty both at close range and in massed drifts.

An easy to grow perennial in average soil, plant Asters in full sun. Attractive and colorful garden plants, Aster species may be hardy from zone 3 to 9. Referring to the shape of the flower head, Ancient Greeks called them Asters, meaning "star". Asters are also called "tears of stars”. The mythology tells that Astraea, the goddess of the Innocence, was driven from the land and was transformed into the constellation Virgo. Astraea crying from time to time and her tears turn into stardust. These last, sinking into the soil of our planet will soon turn into flowers.

Asters with large pink flowers, purple or light blue attract butterflies. Autumn-blooming asters combine splendidly with other butterfly-attracting plants such as Echinacea, Sedum or Verbena.  

PLANTING: Set 18 to 24 inches apart in sun. Asters prefer fertile soil, but will tolerate poorer soils as well. Soil should also be well-drained, but take care to provide ample moisture, particularly in fall when plants are in bloom.

MAINTENANCE: Pinch or even shear back several times during the early part of the growing season to promote vigorous, compact growth. Divide every 3 years or as necessary, replanting the younger, more vigorous pieces from the outside of the clump. To control mildew naturally, avoid overhead watering, and plant away from hedges or fences to assure satisfactory air flow.

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