September’s birth flower, the aster, is a lovely starlike bloom that grows in warm, sunny climates. Originally cultivated in China 4000 years ago, asters are actually hundreds of small yellow flowers in the center, surrounded by blue, purple, pink or white petals. They are often mistaken for daisies, but asters are their own plant species.
How to Grow
Asters are relatively easy to grow. They need full sun, but they will tolerate a little morning shade. They prefer loam, but tolerate most soil types except clay. Clay causes the roots to rot during the winter, when water is retained by the soil.
Asters are a perennial. To reproduce, try dividing them in late spring or early fall. Make sure to allow six weeks before the first frost in order to let the roots reestablish.
Asters prefer dryness. Once the roots are established, you don’t need to water them except during extremely dry weather. If the plants do die from lack of watering, the next heavy rainfall tends to bring them back.
To get better blooms, pinch out the top one to two inches once the plant is almost mature. This will create a bushier plant with heavier blossoms.
Asters have their own place in Greek mythology, like many other flowers. According to legend, Astraea, the goddess of innocence, left the Earth to live as the constellation Virgo. Many years later, when the gods became disgusted with humanity, Zeus wiped out the world with a flood, leaving only two humans alive on the top of Mount Parnassus. As the waters receded, these two began to wander the Earth lost and alone. Astraea felt sorry for them and created starlight to guide them. As she wept from pity, her tears created the flower Aster.
In Eastern cultures, it was believed that the odor of burning Asters would ward off evil spirits and demons. Asters later were laid on the graves of French soldiers to show the wish that things had turned out differently.
Asters represent daintiness, love and magic. To give someone a bouquet of Asters means that you feel that person has cast a magic spell of love on you – but not in a bad way!