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The Aster Daisy: the Flowers of Legends and Hidden Meanings

The word aster means star in Greek.  With their star-like shapes, it’s clear why certain plants in the Asteraceae family are called aster daisies.  The aster genus includes about 170 flowering plant species, but only one of them grows wild in the mountains of North America.

Closeup of a light purple aster daisy.

If you’re not familiar with asters, keep reading to learn how versatile they are for gardening, medicinal, and even culinary uses.  You might decide to make an aster daisy part of your garden space this year!

History of the Aster Daisy

Asters appear all over the world, so their exact origin isn’t clear.  While many asters are native species that have been around for a long time, there are also cultivated asters that have been developed.

Goddess Tears

The aster daisy has a prominent place in Greek mythology. The story is that one day the Greek goddess Astraea became very upset over how few stars there were in the dark sky. She began weeping so much that her tears fell to the ground and turned into aster flowers.

Violet blue aster daisies.

In other Greek myths, asters were placed on the altars of gods and came to symbolize love.

A Revolutionary Flower

On October 31, 1918, a vast number of protesters in Budapest wore the flower during the ongoing Hungarian revolution and because of this it became known as the “Aster Revolution.”

Characteristics of The Aster Daisy

The aster daisy can grow to be one to six feet tall. The flowers can be white, yellow, red, pink, purple, lavender, and blue, typically with yellow centers. 

Purple asters daisies.

Aster daisies are perennials and likely to return the following year so, unlike annuals, they don’t need to be replaced.

Daisies can grow in just about any condition, and they spread rapidly, they’re often thought of as weeds.  But with the right maintenance to control them, there’s no reason they can’t make a lovely addition to your garden.

Bloom time 

Asters bloom in late summer or early fall. However, some species of asters actually bloom beautifully during other times of the year, with one blooming in the wintertime. With asters, your garden could be blooming well into fall.

Medicinal / Culinary Uses

Like young English Daisy leaves, the aster daisy is edible – in this case, the flowers as well as the  leaves can be eaten. You can add them to salads and use them for tea.

Tea made from aster root can be used as an herbal remedy to provide relief for ailments such as allergies, asthma, headaches, and stomach upset.

Symbolism

Floriography (using flowers to send coded meanings) was at its height during the Victorian era and the different colors of asters were used for specific meanings.  Royalty and wisdom were represented by the popular purple aster.  Purity, innocence, and perfection were the messages of white asters.  Devotion was signified by a red aster and a pink aster represented love.

Closeup of two white aster flowers.

Today the white aster represents new beginnings, while red and pink asters still carry messages of love from the giver to the receiver.

If you have a birthday in September, then asters are your birth month flowers.  For couples celebrating 20th wedding anniversaries, a floral arrangement of asters is the appropriate gift to mark the occasion.

Are Asters Really Daisies?

Asters are daisy-like wildflowers that are in the Asteraceae family of plants that includes daisies, as well as sunflowers, chrysanthemums, and even lettuce.  

The main difference between daisies and asters seem to be the central disk – it’s larger in daisies.  So while asters aren’t botanically the same as daisies, they are closely related.

Growing an Aster Daisy in Your Garden

Aster daisies are very easy to grow if you know the basics.   Seeds sprout in just 10 to 20 days, which means you won’t have to wait long to add them to the garden.

Asters attract beneficial insects, so they’re useful for creating pollinator gardens.  With their bright, colorful flowers growing on long stems, they’re good candidates for cut flower gardens, too.

A bee on a purple aster flower.

Where to Plant Them

These colorful plants grow better out in the full, bright sun. 

Soil 

Like most garden plants, aster daisies grow well in fertile, well-drained loamy soil. Asters can die if they’re in soil that always stays wet.

If they’re in good soil, these plants are hardy enough to potentially survive the winter. They can usually even survive a frost. 

When to Plant

You can plant asters at any time during the growing season. The best planting time, though, is in the spring.

Companion Plants

Asters are beautiful on their own, but you can combine them with other plants for even more effect in the garden.  Some good companion plants for asters include:

  • Mums
  • Coneflowers
  • Goldenrod
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Cornflower
  • Hydrangea
  • Joe-pye weed
  • Montauk daisy
  • Red valerian
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Zinnia
  • Sunflowers
Yellow sunflowers.

Different Varieties of the Aster Daisy

As mentioned earlier, there are approximately 170 species of asters and they come in a wide range of colors.

The purple aster daisy is probably the most recognizable to a layman and the variety most people think of when they hear “aster.”  Blue and yellow varieties such as are also popular choices for the pop of cheerful color they bring to a garden.

Pink asters in a garden.

Some of the most popular asters for the garden are:

  • New England (white, pink, violet-blue, purple)
  • Aromatic (violet-blue)
  • Silky (lavender, purple)
  • Sky Blue (blue)
  • Smooth (white, lavender, purple)
  • Calico (white)
  • Blue Wood (blue)
  • Stokes’ (white, blue, purple)
  • New York (pink, purple)

Remember the one variety that grows wild in the mountains across North America?  That’s the blue ‘Aster alpinus’ and it thrives in cold weather.

Creating Bouquets and Decorating With the Aster Daisy

With all their different colors, aster daisies are an exceptional choice for bouquets or vase arrangements. They can even be used to make informal wedding bouquets.  Many of the companion plants listed earlier can be cut and used with asters to make beautiful mixed floral designs.

An informal arrangement of blue asters.

Where Can You Buy the Aster Daisy?

Asters are popular and widely available. You can order aster seeds online if you want to grow them from seeds instead of buying the plants.

They’re also available at your local nurseries or gardening stores. Chain stores sell them too, including Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and others. You’ll find aster daisies with other perennial garden plants.

The Aster Daisy: Final Thoughts

At first glance, you might dismiss the aster daisy as just another pretty little garden flower.  But there’s more than meets the eye here – asters are mentioned in Greek myths and they were even the symbol of a revolution that came to bear their name.

Blue asters in a garden setting.

Asters don’t just add color to a garden, either.  They can be used for herbal remedies and the flowers and leaves are edible.  The fact that they also make wonderful cut flowers for all sorts of bouquet and floral arrangements is the icing on the cake for these garden beauties.

Showcased in pots on your front porch or balcony. Planted in mass along a walkway.  Mixed into a garden bed.  Placed in a vase in your home.  Held in a bouquet.  With a myriad of colors to choose from, the possibilities for asters are limited only by your imagination.