Used to create attractive arrangements for all occasions, asters are a florist’s best friend. The flowers resemble daisies, and make great filler material in vases or basket-type arrangements. Other names for the traditional florist asters are Michelmas daisies, because the flowers bloom near Michaelmas, or the end of September, in many parts of the world. In Hungary, asters are a symbol of the 1918 “Aster Revolution” because protestors in Budapest wore asters in the lapels of their coats.
Worldwide, asters tend to be viewed as cheerful summer-to-fall flowers. They brighten any bouquet, but are especially beautiful in informal arrangements, birthday flowers and anytime you want to indicate cheer and welcome. They’re the birthday flower for September, and symbolize good luck, protection from evil and pleasant anticipation.
There are over 600 species of asters in North America and Eurasia, but florists typically select the Michaelmas or Monte Casina aster. These asters contain a strong central stem with multiple branches and flower heads off of the central stem.
Among typical asters grown for the florist trade, nearly all have a yellow central button with solid-colored petals surrounding the center. Foliage tends to be tough, slightly fibrous and dark green.
A newer type available to florists is the Matsumoto aster. Matsumoto asters are in season year-round and offer both solid and bi-colored flowers. The flower heads are larger than traditional asters, and single as well as double-flower types are available.
Most aster varieties are solid-colored. Colors available include:
The Matsumoto China aster is available as both a solid and bi-colored flower. Bi-colored flowers often have yellow on the petals near the central yellow disk. Nearly all asters have a yellow center, although the color varies from pale lemon yellow to bright, pure yellow hues.
Asters can be used in nearly all types of bouquets and arrangements. Asters can be used as an accent flower in mixed bouquets and seem to pair particularly well with autumnal flowers such as chrysanthemums. They’re often used in inexpensive bouquets containing carnations and ferns, making them perfect for impulse-purchase bouquets kept next to a cash register, for example. Paired with other long-lasting flowers, florists can create mixed bouquets that look fresh for several days.
Purchasing hints and care
Look for asters that have plenty of buds on the stem. Buds should be closed, with a little bit of color showing. Asters with yellowed leaves should be avoided. Not only does it detract from the overall appearance of the flowers and the bouquets you’re creating, but it may indicate that the flower was cut several days ago, and it’s on its way out.
Asters should be stored in cool refrigerated units at a temperature around 36 to 40 degrees F. When you’re ready to use them in an arrangement, remove all foliage below the water line and cut the stems under water. Immerse newly cut stems in warm water for two hours before adding them to bouquets or arrangements, allowing the flowers to acclimate to room temperature. Commercial floral preservative may be used to lengthen their vase life. Generally speaking, asters will last anywhere from six to 10 days, especially if floral preservative is used.
Asters are sold by the bunch, with each bunch containing multiple stems. A typical price is $10 per bunch, or approximately $1 or so per stem in the United States. In the United Kingdom, asters are sold by the stem and cost approximately £0.85 per stem.
by Jeanne Grunert