Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden
Whatever the parentage of supermarket asters, these plants are meant to go in the ground and bloom right away, so you have color as the rest of the garden browns and the trees go bare. Plant them like any other potted perennial.
In the trade, some call them annual asters, some bedding asters. After a lot of searching I’ve learned just a little more. Some might be a form of New York aster called ‘Magic’ or ‘Peter Harrison.’ There’s a chance that some are ‘Sapphire,’ a selection of Aster dumosus. And some, who knows? If you know (maybe you’re a nurseryman) tell the rest of us, please.
Though these asters are hardy, some in Zone 4, they need care to survive their first winter. Because the nurseries grow them on a schedule, the plants are primed to bloom and have not begun to toughen up for winter. Let the flowers remain on the plant after they bloom and wither. Water regularly so the roots have time to grow into the ground and anchor the plant during the freezing and thawing of winter.
There’s a dwarf form of New England Aster called ‘Purple Dome’ that’s terrific. It branches heavily, stays compact and dome-shaped, and blooms with nearly full-sized flowers that have purple petals and yellow centers. If I could only plant one aster, this would be it.
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