Michaelmas or Easter daisies (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii)

Also known as asters, Michaelmas or Easter daisies (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) are small to tall perennials (20cm-120cm high) grown for their clusters of white, pink or mauve daisy flowers, which star in late summer and autumn gardens. The common name ‘Michaelmas’ refers to the flowering time in the northern hemisphere. As autumn coincides with Easter in the southern hemisphere, these plants are also referred to as Easter daisies in Australia.

They are cottage garden plants. Some have honey-scented flowers and all are highly attractive to pollinating insects including bees. Tall varieties may need support from staking.

These little daisies were formerly classified as asters and are part of the daisy family (Aseraceae). Despite the botanical name change, they are widely known as asters. They are prairie plants native to North America with species also found across Europe. They are grown in gardens around the world.

They can be grown from dormant crowns planted in winter or early spring or bought as advanced plants already in flower in summer or autumn. Existing clumps can also be divided in winter or early spring. Plants also grow from cuttings taken in spring.

As well as looking great in the garden, they are excellent and long-lasting cut flowers for a vase. Check out your hardware or garden centre for varieties that grow well in your location.

To encourage strong growth, space tall growing plants at least 40cm apart. Dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties can be planted 20-30cm apart.

Growing conditions

Aspect Bright, sunny to partially shaded location. The less sun they get, the less they will flower. Some varieties are better for a shady position Tall plants may be knocked about in windy locations – provide staking or other support.

Soil These plants need moist but well-drained soils but are otherwise not fussy about soil. They will grow in either clay or sandy soil, however, boggy clay will lead to root rot and dry sandy soil will lead to the plant wilting so check soil moisture regularly, especially in summer.

Climate Best suited to cool to warm temperate climates. In humid areas, plants can be prone to mildew. They are frost hardy so they will flower and grow well into autumn.

How to grow and look after Michaelmas or Easter daisies Symphyotrichum novi-belgii for beautiful blooms including soil, planting, and feeding
How to grow and look after Michaelmas or Easter daisies Symphyotrichum novi-belgii for beautiful blooms including soil, planting, and feeding

General care

Watering Once established, plants are drought hardy. Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions.

Feeding and mulching They respond with strong growth and flowering with a complete fertiliser for flowering plants such as Seasol plus Nutrients Roses & Flowers. Supplement feeding with a liquid fertiliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Roses & Flowers every 2 to 4 weeks. Plants in containers can be liquid fed every 2 to 4 weeks while they are growing and flowering. Apply PowerFeed PRO SERIES Roses & Flowers or PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives. Regular applications of Seasol will also assist drought hardiness and disease resistance.

Use organic mulch such as sugarcane mulch, lucerne or pea straw around the bush.

Pruning Deadhead spent flowers to encourage repeat flowering. Cut plants back hard after flowering in autumn as they die down. New growth that appears in spring can be tip pruned to encourage more flowering stems.

Watch out Michaelmas daisies have few pest problems, but foliage may be attacked by mildew, especially if plantings lack full sun or are overcrowded or in areas of high humidity. Plants growing in too much shade may be lanky.