Heather Cook just wrote a great article outlining the different asters – with the majority available as fresh cut flowers at wholesale florists. Enjoy!
China, Beauty, Matsumoto, Rainbow, Krallen, Igel, Seestern, Meteor, MardiGras, Novi Belgii, Crown, Serenade, Monte casino, Solidago, Solidaster…… OMG!! It’s a little more complicated than some people might think! With the introduction of new varieties, forms, and shapes, its time for a refresher. This is an old and honored member of the floral industry, its about time we see some new entries.
Above you’ll find pictures of some of our more basic asters, more commonly known as “spray asters” . There are a myriad of different names and varieties of spray asters and a disbudded version of these is referred to as “mardi gras asters” developed by Esmeralda farms. Mardi Gras varieties are pinched and disbudded to create long laterals on each stem. Solidaster is a slightly upgraded version of a common “roadsidea” called “mustard weed”. Solidago is an improved version of solidaster, you can tell the two varieties apart by the form of the flower. Solidago comes to a point at top of blooms, solidaster tends to be flat and more umbellate at the top. Serenade is a more recent variety that falls somewhere in between the simple spray asters and the more intricate “china asters”.
Callistephus is a species of aster from which we get most of our focal varieties of asters. The botanical name for this group is Callistephus chinensis. The matsumoto is a variety developed for floral industry that has become a mainstay for designers. These are long lasting, brightly colored and typically inexpensive. From the chinensis comes the nickname “china aster”, from the formal ring of petals surrounding the bright yellow center, we get the nickname “crown aster”. The rainbow aster seen on the far left is an old fashioned garden variety not seldom seen in the cut flower business anymore. It is a very simple version having a single row of petals instead of a crown of petals.
Newly introduced and increasing in availability are improved varieties of the crown aster, including the new varieties Krallen, Igel, and Seestern asters. The word ‘aster’ is derived from the Greek word for star and these are referred to as “seastar asters” by some growers. For the oldtime florist, these will take you back to the good old days of the “beauty aster” which is a very large, very formal looking aster similar to matsumoto, having a less prominent yellow center. Some of these types take several days to develop and open fully as they have many petals and are quite a bit larger than the matsumoto. The Krallen aster looks very much like the old fashioned varieties but it shares many benefits of the newer varieties making it more feasible for commercial use.
Another prominent member of the aster family, is the Matricaria group, commonly referred to as feverfew or chamomile. We will help identify those in a separate article. However ,it is helpful to know that these too, are members of the aster family.