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Aster turbinellus

Aster turbinellus

These graceful, airy asters make up part of the colourful late summer flower displays around Wisley, including near the Glasshouse lake, in the Mixed Borders, on Seven Acres near the small pond and in the late summer bed at the top of the Model Gardens.

Vital statistics

Common name
Prairie aster
Family
Asteraceae
Height & spread
1.2 –1.5m (48-60in) x 60cm (24in)
Form
Clump-forming perennial
Soil
Well-drained, moderately fertile
Aspect
Full sun
Hardiness
Fully hardy

Aster

This genus contains approximately 250 species of annuals, biennials, perennials and sub-shrubs, from a variety of habitats from well-drained mountainous sites to moist woodland in the northern hemisphere, particularly North America. The few shrubby species are mainly from South Africa.

Most asters have simple, linear to lance-shaped leaves, sometimes hairy and sometimes serrated.

Flowers are borne in late summer and autumn with large heads of small to medium-sized daisies in white, pink, blue or purple, with yellow centres.

There are asters for many garden situations including borders, rock gardens, dry sites and by streams.

The name Aster is Latin for 'star', alluding to the form of the flowers. 

Aster turbinellus

This species is a clump-forming, branching and multi-stemmed perennial from the eastern USA. It is erect, with slender, dark-green stems and mid-green, lance-shaped leaves, 8-10cm (3-4in) long. The overall effect is graceful and feathery.

In early to mid-autumn, pale violet flowers with yellow centres are produced in airy panicles, up to 15cm (6in) wide, with flowers up to 2cm (0.75in) across, singly on the stems, but in profusion.

Often, plants labelled as Aster turbinellus appear to differ from the plant in the wild and are probably hybrids of unknown origin. The hybrid is more colourful and more vigorous than the species, with bright violet-blue rays and a purple tinge to the stems.

Cultivation

  • Grow in well-drained, open, moderately fertile, alkaline soil in full sun.
  • Mulch annually, after cutting back in late autumn.
  • Stake plants that grow to 75cm or taller in early spring.
  • Asters are prone to eelworms, aphids, slugs, snails, fusarium wilt, leaf-soot and grey mould.

Propagation

  • Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in spring or autumn, though cultivars will not come true.
  • Divide or separate runners in spring, replanting only the vigorous young shoots.
  • Root basal cuttings in spring.

AGM

The RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee awarded Aster turbinellus hybrid an Award of Garden Merit and described it as:

'Herbaceous perennial of bushy, open growth, with narrow, dark leaves and open sprays of violet daisies 2cm across.'

Useful links

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For expert help on dealing with aphids, and other common aster pests, visit the RHS Advice pages.  

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