How to Grow Callistephus chinensis Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing China Aster

Plants from the genus Callistephus are half or full hardy annuals.

They are bushy in nature, and range in height from 20 to 80 cm (8 to 32 inches).

The blooms of Callistephus are similar to those of Chrysanthemums.

China Aster

They flower in the summer in almost all colours, these often have a yellow centre.

The common name for this garden plant is the China Aster.

Callistephus chinensis
Both Photographs of China Aster (Callistephus chinensis) by Carl E Lewis

In the garden these plants look great as part of a border. They are also used often as a cut flower in floral arrangements.

Unfortunately, these are not the easiest of plants to care for.

Further Information on Callistephus and Commonly Grown Garden Varieties

There is only one member of the Callistephus genus, the China Aster (Callistephus chinensis). As the name suggests the plant is a native of China.

Plants carry long, toothed ovate leaves of about two to three inches in length (5 to 8 cm). They usually have Chrysanthemum like flowers, though some varieties may have only simple ray florets.

In many cases, the central disc florets are yellow in colour. Outer petals are of many colours; purple, red and pink are very common.

The original native species carries single white flowers.

As it is a popular garden plant, there are many different varieties available, meaning that the species is available with many different petal colours and sizes; dwarf varieties may be as little as eight inches (20 cm); taller varieties may reach 32 inches (80 cm).

Some of the commonly grown varieties of Callistephus chinensis include Lilliput blue moon, Pink tower, Ostrich plume, Blue ribbon, Hulk, Red ribbon, and Seastar.

As a member of Asteraceae (Compositae) (the Daisy family), Callistephus is closely related to species such as Chrysanthemum, Calendula, Tagetes, and Dahlia.

Commonly Grown Callistephus Species

Callistephus chinensis

Callistephus chinensis is the only species in this genus.

Callistephus chinensis
Callistephus chinensis (China Aster / Annual aster), photograph by Josep Maria Viñolas Esteva; CC.

Common Callistephus Hybrid Types

Callistephus chinensis - Single

Callistephus chinensis single
Callistephus chinensis single (Single China Aster), picture by Maja Dumat; CC.

Callistephus chinensis - Red

Callistephus chinensis red
Callistephus chinensis red (Red China Aster), picture by Tim Green; CC.

Callistephus chinensis - Purple

Callistephus chinensis Purple
Callistephus chinensis Purple (Purple China Aster), picture by 阿橋 HQ; CC.

Callistephus chinensis - Pink and Yellow

Callistephus chinensis Pink and Yellow
Callistephus chinensis Pink and Yellow (Pink and Yellow China Aster), picture by Ott Rebane; CC.

How to Grow Callistephus

Callistephus Growing Guide and Facts

Common Names: China Aster.
Family: Asteraceae.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual, hardy annual.
Height: 8 to 32 inches (20 to 80 cm).
Native: China.

Growing Region: Zones 1 to 10.
Flowers: Summer.
Flower Details: Rays: purple, red, blue, pink, many other colours. Discs: yellow. Ray and (sometimes) disc florets. Chrysanthemum-like. Fragrant.
Foliage: Ovate. Toothed. Two to three inches.

Sow Outside: Cover seed. Following the last frost. Spacing 6 to 24 inches (15 to 60 cm).
Sow Inside: Water from below. Use vermiculite. Use Peat pots. Germination time: one to two weeks. Temperature 65 to 70°F (18 to 21°C). Seven or eight weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors following the last frost.

Requirements: Full sunlight or light shade. Good drainage. Soil pH 5.5 to 7. Rich soil. Regular light watering. Feed with fertilizer two times during the growing season.
May need support. Summer mulch. Deadhead. Weed around plants to prevent competition. Grow in a different location every year.
Do not overcrowd. Do not grow close to a surface that reflects heat. Grow in an area that has adequate ventilation.
It is important to remove plants that have any sign of disease, as they pass infections easily to other Callistephus.

How to Grow Callistephus

If you are planning to grow Callistephus, then the seeds should be lightly covered once sown. Sow in the spring, following the last frost.

If you initially plan to grow China Aster as seedlings indoors, for later transplanting, then they should be germinated at a temperature of 18 to 21°C (64 to 70°F) for two weeks.

Seeds should be sown in peat pots. Use aa vermiculite mix and provide water supplied from below.

After about seven or eight weeks, the seedlings can be planted in the garden in an area of partial shade or full sun. Use a spacing of 20 cm (8 inches, dwarf) 40 cm (16 inches, medium) or 60 cm (24 inches) for larger species.

They prefer to grow in a rich soil that has good drainage, and a pH of 6 to 7.

Caring for Callistephus Plants

Callistephus chinensis are not the easiest plants to look after, they should be carefully watered when it is dry. Plants require a couple of feeds when growing.

Additionally, they should be staked, dead headed, and require careful weeding of plants in the area. It is good to rotate Callistephus's location every year.

Further information on caring for Callistephus is given in the 'requirements; section of the quick growing guide above.