The Q&A Archives: growing annual asters

Question: For the last few years I have put in annual asters. I have tried both starting them in the house ( in potting soil) and sowing them in potting outside in late april/early may in potting soil. Both times germination never occured. My question is what does it take to get these plants to grow. ( I live in zone 5.)

Answer: Callistephus chinensis does not have any truly unusual requirements for germination. Make sure you are starting with fresh, good quality seed. Use a soil- less mix to start them in, these potting mixes are relatively sterile and provide both moisture holding and good drainage capabilities. Or, you can use one of the vermiculite based "seed starter" mixes. All of your tools and containers should be very clean. The mix should be barely damp, like a wrung out sponge, before you putt it in the seed starting container. These seeds should be just barely covered, so do not push them into the soil. Just sprinkle a very light layer, a dusting of soil, over them and water lightly with tepid water to settle the soil into good contact with the seeds. Then cover with clear plastic to maintain humidity and place in a bright location that is out of direct sun. They should emerge in 7 to 10 days at about 70 degrees soil temperature. Keep in mind that the soil is usually about 5 degrees colder than the air temperature. Also, once they begin to grow, keep the soil slightly damp, not too wet and not dried out. Remove the cover as soon as they come up, place in a very bright location with good air circulation. Repot as needed to prevent them crowding. You would start them indoors about six weeks before planting them outside, do not start them too early as they like a warm soil outside. In your area, you would plant them out probably in late May to early June. And, be sure to harden them off or acclimate them to the outdoors before planting them in a sunny spot in the garden. I hope this helps.

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