Origin and Distribution
The pillow aster (bot. Aster dumosus) originally comes from North America, where the wild plant belonging to the sunflower family (Asteraceae) is still widespread today. However, the wild species cannot be found in our ornamental gardens. Instead, mainly hybrids between Aster dumosus and Aster novi-belgii are planted, some of which are assigned to the smooth-leaf asters (Aster novi-belgii) by British botanists.
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Pillow asters can be used for many purposes in the garden. The vigorous plant is mainly used for beds, borders and borders in sunny locations, but the late flowering perennial is also popular in rock gardens. Furthermore, it is part of the typical grave planting, as it quickly forms dense carpets and is great for attractively covering larger areas. Pillow asters look particularly pretty in combination with tall autumn asters and with perennials and grasses such as angel hair (bot. Stipa tenuissima) and red-brown switchgrass (bot. Panicum virgatum).
Appearance and stature
The different varieties of the vigorous shrub reach heights between 20 and 60 centimeters and grow quickly, densely and compactly. The cushion aster spreads over its rhizomes in dense mats, which is why it is very suitable for greening larger areas. The plant is considered to be very likely to reproduce, as even the smallest pieces of roots grow back into new plants. For this reason, larger plantings are difficult to remove, as new pillow asters can still sprout from the old location years later.
The lanceolate, pointed leaves of the pillow asters can be between five and 15 centimeters long and typically have a smooth edge. However, there are also varieties with serrated leaves. Healthy foliage has a strong dark green color.
Flowering and flowering period
The botanical name of the pillow aster is derived from the Latin word “astrum”, which means “star”. In fact, they are about two to five centimeters in size very similar to small stars: from the often yellow center of the flower there are numerous elongated, radial petals that shine in a wide variety of shades from purple, blue, pink, purple to white. The very numerous flowers often form a thick carpet during the autumn flowering period, which makes the garden shine late in the year - most varieties bloom between August and October. With good care and appropriate weather conditions, the blossoms can still be admired in November.
Like other garden aster species - with the exception of the animal-poisonous chrysanthemums - pillow asters are completely harmless to both humans and animals. On the contrary: the colorful flowers are even edible and can be used, for example, to decorate desserts and salads.
Location and soil
Plant the pillow asters in as full sun as possible and sheltered from the wind. In principle, the perennials also thrive in light, partially shaded places, but there they develop fewer flowers and are more susceptible to diseases. The ideal soil is fresh, but not wet (never plant pillow asters in hollows, as this is where the water collects!), Also loose and rich in nutrients. A humus to sandy-loamy subsoil is ideal, but it must be well-drained. You can loosen up heavy, loamy soil with gravel and humus soil.
You do not have to buy pillow asters as ready-made plants; you can grow them yourself from seeds. You should sow the fine seeds in early spring in a bowl filled with potting soil or in small pots. Keep them warm and light at around 18 to 21 ° C and keep the substrate slightly moist. Since high humidity promotes germination, stretch a translucent film or something similar over the cultivation container. The seeds germinate after about two to three weeks and then develop very quickly into strong young plants. However, these should only be placed in the bed after the late frosts, as they are still quite sensitive.
Plant pillow asters correctly
For the desired carpet-like growth, you should plan about three to four plants per square meter, as the optimal planting distance is about 50 to 60 centimeters. Whether you want to plant different colors together or create a uniformly colored bed is entirely up to your taste. Regarding the planting date, you can plant pillow asters all year round, provided the weather is mild and the ground is not frozen. This is possible because the perennials are mostly sold as containers or pots. It is best to place the plants in the ground in late spring - after the ice saints - or in early autumn.
The planting depth should roughly correspond to the depth of the pot, because the plants must not be placed deeper in the garden soil than they were previously in the planter. Enrich the excavation with ripe compost / compost soil and generously cover the planting area with bark mulch. This not only provides additional nutrients through the rotting process, but also prevents the soil from drying out quickly on dry and / or hot days. Don't forget to water the pillow asters vigorously after planting them!
Pour pillow aster
Pillow asters like to be slightly damp, but not wet. You should therefore ensure an adequate supply of water, especially on dry floors and in hot weather. The soil should not dry out, but waterlogging should not form either - the popular perennials do not particularly like either. Always pour directly on the ground, never from above and over the leaves - this promotes the development of powdery mildew, a fungal disease typical of asters.
Fertilize pillow aster correctly
Fertilize the pillow asters twice a year with ripe compost and horn shavings. (€ 6.39 at Amazon *) The first time you should provide the plants with the shoot in spring, the second time after flowering. Alternatively, you can also use a complete fertilizer for flowering plants for garden plants, potted plants cannot be supplied organically with nutrients anyway because of the lack of microorganisms in the soil.
Cut pillow aster correctly
In order for pillow asters to bloom profusely for a long time, you have to prune them regularly - the perennials tend to age. To do this, regularly remove dead plant parts and withered shoots, and cut back the plants completely before the first frost. Alternatively, pruning is also possible in spring, which has the advantage of better winter hardiness: pillow asters that are not pruned in autumn usually tolerate freezing temperatures better.
Propagate pillow asters
Every two to three years you should dig up and divide the pillow asters. This promotes dense and bushy growth, as the perennials only sporadically develop new shoots after a while. Otherwise, you don't have to worry too much about increasing it, because Aster dumosus itself provides for abundant offspring with its numerous root saplings. It is best to share in spring or early autumn. Then the plants are to be moved to a new location separately.
Basically, pillow asters are well hardy, but you should cover especially young, still sensitive plants with a layer of bark mulch or with spruce or fir branches over the cold season. This also applies to specimens cut back in autumn. Remove the cover in good time in spring so that the plants can sprout again. Now is also the right time to start fertilizing.
Diseases and pests
Basically, pillow asters are quite insensitive to pests and diseases. In damp to wet and / or dark locations, however, fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and aster wilt occur more frequently. With both diseases, you should remove infected parts of the plant and dispose of them with household waste. In addition, watering and spraying a field horsetail broth that you have prepared yourself helps to prevent fungal diseases or to suppress them in their early stages. If, on the other hand, the population can no longer be saved, you should no longer plant pillow asters at this location.
Pillow asters are also very pretty as cut flowers in a vase, especially in a mixed bouquet with other species.
Species and varieties
The genus of the asters comprises around 150 different species, which are mainly found in Europe and Asia. The pillow aster, also known as autumn aster or bushy autumn aster, which is very popular in many ornamental gardens due to its vigor and numerous cup flowers, impresses with its immense variety of varieties. You can choose between varieties of the species and hybrid forms. We would like to introduce you to some of the most beautiful varieties for the home garden.
- 'Apollo': Growth height up to 40 centimeters, initially white, pink flowers when they fade
- 'Eye candy': up to 30 centimeters in height, dark purple flowers, very vigorous and persistent hybrid form
- 'Blue Lagoon': Up to 50 centimeters in height, dark violet-blue flowers with a yellow center
- 'Garnet': Up to 30 centimeters in height, pink-red flowers with a yellow center
- 'Heinz Richard': Up to 30 centimeters in height, bright pink flowers with a yellow center
- 'Herbstgruß vom Bresserhof': Up to 50 centimeters in height, pink-white flowers with a yellow center
- 'Jenny': Growth height up to 50 centimeters, strong purple flowers with a yellow center
- 'Kristina': up to 30 centimeters in height, pure white flowers with a yellow center
- 'Mediterranean': Growth height up to 40 centimeters, strong blue to blue-violet flowers
- 'Nesthäkchen': low growth, carmine-red flowers
- 'Kassel': Growth height up to 40 centimeters, bright red flowers with a yellow center, very vigorous and persistent hybrid form
- 'Peter Harrison': Growth height up to 40 centimeters, strong pink flowers with a yellow center
- 'Prof. Anton Kippenberg ': Growth height up to 40 centimeters, blue-violet flowers
- 'Sapphire': Growth height up to 40 centimeters, violet-blue flowers with a yellow center
- 'Snow pillow': up to 30 centimeters in height, white flowers
- 'Starlight': Up to 40 centimeters in height, purple-pink flowers with a yellow center
- 'Zwergenhimmel': up to 40 centimeters in height, light purple flowers with a yellow center