Several inflorescences adorn the herbaceous stems of the European Michaelmas daisy, making the flower one of the most popular bloomers in autumn. Bluish violet flowers with a bright, yellow center provide color in the garden bed sometimes until the first weeks of October. Unfortunately, the crop that, as its name implies, likes mountainous areas, is becoming increasingly rare. It is all the more effective to plant it in your own garden. If the gardener observes the following care tips, nothing stands in the way of a successful cultivation.
Profile of European Michaelmas daisy:
Scientific name: Aster amellus
Plant family: daisy family (Asteraceae)
Other names: Italian aster, Michaelmas daisy
Sowing time: Spring
Planting time: Spring to Autumn
Flowering period: August to October
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, calcipholous, moderately nutritious
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, bouquets, embankments, dry walls, borders, flower garden, natural garden, prairie garden, rock garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5
Bee and insect friendly: yes
Plant characteristics and classification of European Michaelmas daisy
Plant order, origin and occurrence of European Michaelmas daisy
The European Michaelmas daisy (Aster amellus) is a late summer flowering perennial that belongs to the large genus of asters within the daisy family (Asteraceae). It is one of the European-Asian species and, in contrast to its North American relatives, is not quite as vigorous. Its original distribution area extends from Lithuania across northern and central France and Macedonia to Western Asia. It likes to grow on stony, calcareous soil, often in loose bushes.
Characteristics of European Michaelmas daisy
European Michaelmas daisy forms bushy clusters and reaches a height of about 30 to 60 centimeters (12 to 24 in). Their growth width is around 40 to 50 centimeters (16 to 20 in).
The deep green leaves are broadly lanceolate, entire and sometimes slightly toothed.
The heyday of the European Michaelmas daisy extends from August to September, occasionally into October. While the ligulate flowers glow in a strong blue violet, the disc blossoms are colored yellow. Some varieties also enchant with pink or white flowers. The large flower heads usually stand together in loose clusters. The flower heads are also popular with bees.
The fruits of the European Michaelmas daisy are ripe around September. As is typical for many asters, achenes are formed with pappus. The seed heads are also a nice eye-catcher.
European Michaelmas daisy – cultivation and care
Stony slopes and many hours of sunshine offer ideal conditions for the perennial. Because of these requirements, it can be found more often in alpine regions than in lowlands. Nevertheless, anyone can successfully cultivate the sun worshiper with the right care. A gravel or rock garden offers the best conditions. Depending on the variety, the European Michaelmas daisy can also be kept in a bucket, as it remains relatively low at a height of around half a meter (20 in). If the plant threatens to break off, regardless of whether in the bucket or in the bed, the plant needs a support.
European Michaelmas daisy love it warm and sunny. In the wild they appear only in light places in pine forests. Occasionally the plant also tolerates half-shade. However, several hours of sunshine a day are essential for healthy grows and abundant flowering.
Nevertheless, a location on a south-facing terrace is only recommended with restrictions. It shouldn’t be too warm at the location. In this case, the plant becomes susceptible to disease and shortens its flowering time.
Advice: Pale, undeveloped flowers are a clear indication of a lack of light.
European Michaelmas daisy place few demands on the soil. They also grow in places where its too dry and stony for most other bloomers. The soil should still provide moderately nutrients. Otherwise, it is satisfied with a dry, loamy to sandy substrate. The gardener optimally covers the bed with gravel or stones. It is only important that the soil is well drained. European Michaelmas daisy does not tolerate waterlogging. Especially when it comes to planting in buckets, care must be taken to ensure that rainwater and irrigation water can drain off easily. A layer of gravel is suitable here in two ways. On the one hand, the gardener creates the best site conditions, as stony soil meets the natural requirements of the aster. On the other hand, gravel is a good way of laying a drainage.
Note: The loamy soil requirements of the plant, however, can be fatal. Loamy soil is inherently dense and impermeable.
Instructions – create a drainage in the flower bed
- Dig into the deep layers
- Mix the excavation with sand
- Put the soil back into the hole
- do not knock or pound
European Michaelmas daisy also has a special preference for calcareous soils. In order to create the optimal site conditions, it is advisable to first check the lime content of the soil with a test strip from the hardware store. If the result shows a pH value that is too acidic, the gardener limes the soil as follows:
- Loam soils at pH-value 7
- sandy loam soils with a pH-value of 6.5
- sandy soils at pH-value 5.5
If these values deviate slightly, it is sufficient to incorporate around 150 g of lime per square meter (10 sqft.) into the soil every three years. If the values do not improve or are significantly below the recommended value, the gardener increases the amount to 250 g per square meter.
The best time to add lime is spring. On a dry day, the gardener mixes the agent deep into the soil. It is important that the soil is dry for this. Alternatively, this can also be done in autumn.
Which lime to use for which soil:
- Humus soil: carbonated or algae lime
- Heavy clay soil: quicklime
- Light to medium soil: garden lime
- Alternatively: rock flour
Basically, the gardener can plant young plants all year round. The only exclusion criterion is frozen soil. However, spring is recommended when the leaves have already fallen off and have not yet formed again.
- Loosen soil / include drainage
- Keep a distance of 40 to 50 cm (16 to 20 in)
- Put 4 to 6 plants per square meter
- Plant European Michaelmas daisies from the trade no deeper than in the existing pot
Tip: European Michaelmas daisy is not only an eye-catcher in the bed, they are also ideal for enclosing beds. Nevertheless, the gardener should not plant them too close for this purpose. It spreads quickly and grows together with time with good care.
Suitable planting partner
- Bee balm
- Carline thistle
- Dense blazing star
- Rough oxeye
- Silver thistle
Since the plant thrives on dry soils, normal rainfall is sufficient as irrigation water. The gardener only has to the water if the drought is long-lasting.
Advice: In summer, water should be given in the early morning or late evening, if possible, to prevent burns caused by intense sunlight.
It is recommended to fertilize European Michaelmas daisy twice a year, especially in the first year after planting. A long-acting perennial fertilizer is suitable. Experience has shown that this care measure leads to richer flower development.
The gardener has to cut back the European Michaelmas daisy annually so that many violet flowers also form in the following year. The pruning should be done in autumn or after flowering. The plant should also be rejuvenated every three to four years. Therefore one removes all old and woody parts of the plants.
Note: Frequently, gardening guides advise not to cut asters before the onset of winter. In the case of the European Michaelmas daisy, a pruning close to the ground is not a problem in autumn. While the shoots of other species represent important frost protection, the European Michaelmas daisy is hardy.
If you do not want to leave the plant to spread itself, but want to specifically multiply the flower, you can achieve this by dividing it. Otherwise, the plant forms runners and appears from time to time in undesirable places in the garden. The best time for division is spring or post flowering. Ideally, the division takes place every two to three years to rejuvenate the plant.
- Lift the plant
- Depending on the size, separate the root ball with the spade
- or pull apart with your hands
- Plant sections with two to three eyes at a new location
- Check the original root ball for bald spots and if so do not plant them again, but dispose of them on the compost
Note: The division is the simplest method of multiplication. At will, the gardener can also multiply the plant by sowing or cutting.
Diseases and pests
Inconsistent location conditions increase the susceptibility of European Michaelmas daisy to pests. A lack of light in particular often leads to disease.
Too dense growth, for example, causes mildew. The parasite manifests itself with a white coating on the leaves. However, the pests mostly sit on the undersides of the leaves. In the case of a mild infestation, it is sufficient to wipe this covering with a cloth and to change the location. In the long term, the plant can be treated with plant swill made from horsetail or with milk. Beneficial organisms such as ladybugs also fight the fungus in good or bad weather in a biological way.
The aster wilt is also feared, with the leaves hanging limply as if the flower had dried up. In this case, the gardener replants the crop and replaces it with a robust plant. Only after at least four years can one plant an aster again at the same location.
Disregarding the correct care instructions sometimes leads the plant become bare. Too little nutrients are the cause. With some compost or other organic fertilizer, the unsightly look is quickly remedied.
In contrast to many other aster species, the European Michaelmas daisy is hardy. It can withstand temperatures from -23 ° C to -28 ° C / -9 ° C to -18 ° F. If you want to be on the safe side, cover the root ball with some leaves. A precautionary care measure cannot hurt, especially in containers where the substrate freezes quickly.
Use in the garden
The European Michaelmas daisy is predestined for the near-natural gravel or rock garden. It is particularly beautiful in sunny herbaceous perennial beds. Suitable neighbors are early summer perennials such as oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) or high bearded iris (Iris barbata-elatior). It also cuts a fine figure in steppe heather plantations with silver thistles (Carlina acaulis) and goldilocks asters (Aster linosyris). European Michaelmas daisy can also be used as cut flowers.