Facts About The Michaelmas Daisy, Michaelmas Daisies, And Asters

 

The Michaelmas daisy is a rather common plant that that is known by number of names. For one thing, it is an aster, as are all daisies, and being an aster, among the several names it is known by are the New England Aster, and the Hardy Aster. There are also at least three species or asters, or daisies, that bear the name Michaelmas daisy, or Michaelmas aster.  Once species, Aster novae-angliae, is the New England Aster. Another species, Aster amellus, is the European Michaelmas daisy. A third species, Aster x salignus is called the Common Michaelmas Daisy, which is also known as the New York aster.

 

Where The Daisy Got Its Name

 

The New England version, A. novae-angliae is the species one is most apt to purchase in containers or as seeds for growing the flower garden, or for scattering in a wildflower garden. A. x salignus is the species you are most apt to see in a forest setting, in an open field, or in a ditch, and as lovely as the little blue flower may be, this species is usually regarded as a weed. A. amellus is found throughout Europe, especially in Switzerland and Italy. It was in Italy the plant got the name Michaelmas as the plant would usually be in bloom during Michaelmas. Michaelmas is a religious holiday honoring the archangel St. Michael, and is celebrated in some parts of Europe every September 29thA. amellus is said to have both culinary and medicinal properties, although as far as edibility is concerned, that property may not extend to hybrids or cultivars.

 

A. novae-angliae – A Popular Garden Plant

 

A. novae-angliae, the New England version of the daisy, is a popular plant with gardeners. It is a perennial plant, and grows to a height of between 3 and 4 feet. It is hardy in USDA Zones 3 through 9, which means you’ll find this species almost everywhere in the United States and Canada. The color of the blossoms is most often light blue, but some subspecies have blossoms than range in color from pink to violet to lavender. Even plants with white blossoms have been reported, as have some having blossoms having a very deep purple color.  Blossoming generally occurs in late summer or early fall. A. novae-angliae is often grown from seed, which is usually sown in the fall. Being a perennial, this plant can also be propagated by dividing the root ball. Propagation can also be done from stem cuttings. It should be noted that the colors of the blossoms of plants grown from seeds that are collected from cultivars may not be the same as those of the parent plants.

 

A Reason To Prune The Plant Back

 

A number of gardeners who grow this plant will give it what they call a haircut to keep it from growing too tall. If the plant is cut back before its first blooms appear it will take on a shorter, more compact look, and will eventually bloom as if nothing had happened. This plant generally grows as a small bush rather than having a single stem. If it is not pruned back, and stems fall to the ground, new stems will sprout up along the length a fallen stem, producing an even thicker bush with more blossoms. That will often result in a plant that is either unruly or very attractive, depending upon your point of view. While the blooms are attractive when the plant is allowed to reach its normal height, the lower leaves on the often turn brown and die back. Those who want the plant tall, will often plant it in back of the garden such that lower growing plants can mask the somewhat unattractive appearance caused by the brown leaves. This is an easy plant to grow. It is drought tolerant, but it will appreciate being watered along with the other plants in the garden. It also will attract bees and butterflies, but deer leave it alone, which does not necessarily mean it will keep deer away from neighboring plants.

Some Potential For Being Invasive

 

A. novae-angliae will self-seed, and has a potential to become invasive, but when it does its invasive properties tend to be more of a nuisance than anything else, and many gardeners do not experience any significant self-seeding at all.  On the other hand, A. x salignus, the common daisy, is definitely an invasive plant, which is why it is seen in so many forests, fields, and ditches.

 

The name aster is believed to be derived from the Greek word for stars, which asters are said to resemble. Reliable sources say that the Greek god Virgo, who was on good terms with the goddess Astrea, sprinkled stardust on the earth, and the stardust became asters. A somewhat contradictory version says that asters were created from the tears of an unhappy Astrea, tears which fell to earth. The name given to the Michaelmas daisy on the other hand is based upon a true story, even though St. Michael was not a human being, but was an archangel.