The vividly violet-purple flowers of Frikart's aster make a beautiful complement to the golds and oranges of other species's autumn colors.
Frikart's aster is often seen as a potted dome, about a 1 ft (0.3 m) tall and wide, covered with dozens of lavender-blue daisylike flowers, each about two and half inches in diameter and highlighted with a yellow center. The flowers cover the whole plant, practically obscuring the leaves, and last for eight weeks or more. In the ground, Frikart's aster gets 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) tall and just as wide. It has many branches and a loose bushy form. The leaves are dark green and slightly hairy. Frikart's aster is a hybrid species of garden origin. 'Monch' and 'Wonder of Stafa' (a.k.a. 'Wunder von Stafa') were selected from the original cross. They are very similar, but 'Wonder of Stafa' is supposed to be a little taller and have paler blue flowers. 'Flora's Delight' was selected from a more recent cross between named cultivars of the same two parents. It is a shorter and denser plant, and apparently less hardy than the others.
Frikart's aster is a hybrid species created by Karl Frikart around 1920 at the Stafa Nursery in Switzerland, by cross-pollinating Aster amellus from eastern Europe with A. thomsonii from the Himalayas in Pakistan.
Frikart's aster is easy to cultivate. It is resistant to most mildews and diseases. It does fine in well-drained soil with very little fertilizer. Deadhead to prolong blooming.
Light: Full sun. Moisture: Water before the soil dries out completely. Frikart's aster will rot if the soil drainage is not excellent. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. This hardy aster can take a light frost and keep on blooming. However, in zones 5 and 6 it needs protection in winter and should be mulched over. Dividing and cutting back seem to decrease winter hardiness, so wait until spring. Propagation: Frikart's aster is propagated by division in the spring. Seeds are sometimes available, but these yield plants with a mixed bag of different purples and blues. It is likely that some growers, in their frenzy to keep up with demand from the discount garden centers, have propagated Frikart's aster from seed, and you may not always get what the label says.
Frikart's aster artfully spills across a walkway at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Georgia.
Frikart's aster is used (overused?) as a potted container plant on porches and decks. Many consider it to be one of the best of all herbaceous perennials. In the ground, it grows quickly into a 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) mound of vibrant lavender-blue flowers. Its long blooming period makes Frikart's aster a great source for cut flowers. In mild winter areas it blooms for months. Frikart's aster is often used in the cottage garden, along pathways and massed in perennial borders.
Great rows of potted Frikart's asters in full bloom brighten the discount garden centers from midsummer through fall. (Some say that's where they should stay -- The Wal-Marts and Home Depots need them more than most gardens!) This is one of the most popular flowers among casual gardeners and even the gardening-impaired. Anyone can buy a few 1-quart pots of these gaudy lavender-blue flowers and set them on the porch and voila - instant color!
But, just because it is ubiquitous and easy to grow doesn't mean Frikart's aster should be avoided. It is a useful perennial with long-lasting vibrant lavender and yellow flowers that go well with most other colors.