CALLISTEPHUS (China Aster, Annual Aster)

Chinese Asters (C. chinensis) provided late summer and autumn colour in flower beds and long-lasting blooms for indoor decoration. The leaves are hairy and deeply lobed, and the flowers look like large Daisies or small Chrysanthemums. You will find a bewildering selection in the seed catalogues – dwarf and tall, single and double, and a wide variety of flower shapes and colours. Callistephus is almost hardy – it is usually bedded out in May but in mild districts the seeds can be sown outdoors in spring. Never grow this plant on the same spot year after year – there is a danger of disease. For really good result, spread a mulch around the stems, dead-head regularly and stake tall varieties.
VARIETIES: The Single group includes the old-fashioned types – ‘Super Chinensis’ (2 ft) is the one to choose. The Dwarf group is extremely useful where space is limited – pick ‘Milady’ (10 in.), ‘Pinocchio’ (9 in.) or ‘Pepite’ (12 in.). At the other end of the scale is the 2 ½ ft Tall group – ‘Princess Giant’, ‘Perfection’ and ‘Giants of California’. There are several flower forms – the Ball group has fully double, globular flowers – ‘Miss Europe’ is a good example. The Chrysanthemum-flowered group includes the well-known ‘Duchess’ variety; the Ostrich Plume group with its feather-like petals is popular for bedding. Finally there is the button-like Pompon group which includes ‘Pirette’.
SITE & SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do if adequate lime is present. Thrives in a sunny, sheltered spot.
PLANT DETAILS: Height 9 in. – 2 ½ ft. Spacing 9 in. – 1 ½ ft. Flowering period August – October.
PROPAGATION: Follow the Half Hardy Annual technique. Alternatively in mild areas sow seeds outdoors in mid April.