China aster, Annual aster
a.k.a. Crown aster (informal)
Note: Many suppliers and florists refer to these flowers as Matsumoto asters, which is the name of a specific cultivar series.
Ranging from 2 to 4 inches in diameter, blooms have brightly hued, coarse-textured petals usually surrounding lighter-colored (often yellow) centers (disk florets). “Dwarf” varieties, like the ‘Serenade’ series, have 1-inch-diameter blooms and a spray habit.
With some series and cultivars, the ray florets (“petals”) replace most of the disk florets, giving them a double-flowered appearance (shaggy, pompomlike)—although there are true double-flowered varieties as well as single and semidouble.
Stems are rigid and sometimes branched; have oval to lance-shaped leaves with serrated edges; and, as cut flowers, typically range from 12 to 30 inches in length.
Hues of the disk florets include purple, lavender, blue-violet, red-violet, red, pink, rose, mauve, coral, apricot, yellow, green and white. Most varieties are solid colored, but there also are bicolor and multicolor cultivars.
Depending on variety, environmental conditions and care, China asters’ blooms should last five to 10 days at the consumer level. Foliage can decline faster than the flowers, wilting and turning yellow and black.
China asters are available year-round.
Unpack China asters immediately upon their arrival, and check the flower quality. Remove all stem bindings and any foliage from the stems that would be under water in storage containers.
Recut the stems at an angle with a sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of stem.
HYDRATION AND NUTRITION
Immediately after recutting the stems, dip or place the stem ends into a hydration solution. Then place the flowers into clean, disinfected containers partially filled with warm (100 F to 110 F), properly proportioned low-dose flower-food solution (holding/storage solution); the sugar in full-dose flower foods can cause the foliage to turn yellow and black prematurely.
After processing China asters, immediately place them into a floral refrigerator at 33 F to 38 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before selling or arranging them. Except for design time, keep these flowers refrigerated until sold or delivered.
With these flowers, the flower-food solution gets contaminated quickly, so change it every other day, recut stems and replace flowers into clean containers. Advise customers to do the same.
China asters are relatively resistant to the effects of ethylene gas; however, always take steps to eliminate ethylene production in your facilities, and keep these flowers away from fruit and other produce.
• China asters should be harvested when flowers are fully open, so purchase only bunches with fully open blooms.
• Check foliage to make sure it is healthy, green and turgid, showing no signs of yellowing or wilting.
• Ensure that stems are sturdy and straight and that there is no “neck droop.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME The genus name “Callistephus” is derived from the Greek word/prefix kallos/kalli- (beautiful) and stephos/stephanus (crown), in reference to the showy solitary flower heads. The specific epithet (species name) “chinensis” means of China.
FAMILY MATTERS Callistephus is a member of the vast Asteraceae/Compositae family. A few of its many close relatives are chrysanthemums, marguerites, Gerberas, Dahlias, Zinnias, Cosmos, marigolds, black-eyed Susans, bachelor’s buttons and strawflowers.
HOME SWEET HOME Not surprisingly, these flowers are native to China.
To view 16 additional China Aster varieties, download the PDF.
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Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network®, www.chainoflife.org
Cut Flowers, by C. Gelein
Cut Flowers of the World,
by Johannes Maree and Ben-Erik van Wyk
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Stearn's Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners
by William T. Stearn