Michaelmas daisies – the perfect plants for autumn

Ever since I was a boy, I have admired Michaelmas daisies, and after years of gardening I still think they are perfect plants for autumn. These late-flowering perennials come back stronger year after year, they bulk up well, offer a late source of nectar for insects and the blooms last well as a cut flower. And their cheerful, daisy flowers, commonly in shades of blue, purple, pink and white, add reliable colour from July right through until late October.

What is the best place to grow asters

Over the years I have grown asters in many different soils with success. Asters generally prefer a moisture-retentive, but free-draining alkaline soil, but I’ve also grown them in sandy, acidic soil too.

Asters perform much better when given a sunny spot. They will tolerate being in shade for part of the day. Choose a west, east or ideally a south-facing border or pot.

Why have asters changed their name

In 2015 some asters were re-classified with the Latin names Symphyotrichum and Eurybia. The reason for these name changes is that botanists have now classified plants more accurately. Although it might seem an annoyance it is exciting that we are discovering more about plants all the time.

Many nurseries are still using the name Aster but don’t be surprised if you see these garden favourites listed under another name.

Which are the best asters to grow

Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ is without doubt my favourite. In my experience it is the longest flowering of the asters, copes well without staking and has good mildew resistance. It’s purple flowers and height of 80cm make it perfect for the front of a border. If you only have room for one aster, then this is it.

For a more naturalistic look, Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ has very similar flowers in a paler blue, while for a shocking purple addition to the border I’d opt for S. novi-belgii ‘Purple Dome’. For double blue flowers S. novi-belgii ‘Marie Ballard’ and S. n-b. ‘Patricia Ballard’ are double flowered forms in blue and pink respectively. meantime S. lateriflorum ‘Prince’ produces arching stems covered with lots of small white flowers.

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