Asters and morning glories provide a much-needed splash of color in the garden when summer begins to fade and fall makes its annual appearance. Their distinct blooms and rich symbolism make asters and morning glories flowers that carry a lot of meaning. Learn more about these two late bloomers!
What Are the September Birth Flowers?
Asters once represented a revolution, have been used to remember soldiers lost at war, and served as muses for painters and writers.
The morning glory is a fast-growing vine that has long been a symbol of love—both undying and unrequited.
A member of the Daisy family (Asteraceae), which also includes dahlias, marigolds, and sunflowers, asters provide a pop of color as summer turns to fall.
There are hundreds of asters—with estimates between 250 and 350 species—growing around the world. The daisy-like flowers, which come in colors ranging from white and yellow to pink, purple, red, and blue, have thin petals radiating from a white or yellow tubular disc floret.
A few years ago, the Aster genus was refined and split up, resulting in almost all of the common North American “asters” being reclassified under a new genus, Symphyotrichum. Asters true to the Aster genus are now almost exclusively native to Europe and Asia.
Aster Meanings and Symbolism
In Greek, aster means “star,” which is a reference to the star-like appearance of the plant’s flowers.
In ancient Greek and Roman cultures, the burning of aster leaves was believed to scare away snakes and ward off evil spirits.
They were considered a sacred flower to the Greek and Roman gods. Greek mythology pinpoints the aster’s beginning from the tears of the goddess Astraea.
Asters have long been a symbol of love and wisdom, patience and beauty. It has also been associated with faith, friendship, and purity.
Purple asters are considered a royal color and a symbol of wisdom, white asters represent innocence, red is a sign of devotion and passion, and pink symbolizes love and kindness.
Some consider asters to be the zodiac flower for Capricorns.
The flower is given on 20th wedding anniversaries.
The Aster in History
The stately looking aster is beloved in gardens and homes. Thomas Jefferson enjoyed the China aster (Callistephus chinensis) in particular, growing it on his Monticello estate. The aster has also been the subject for many great works of art, including those by Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. Poet Robert Frost used the aster flower as a symbol of hope in his poem, A Late Walk.
The aster has also been involved in cultural movements. A revolution in Hungary in the aftermath of World War I came to be known as the Aster Revolution, during which supporters of the revolution wore asters in their hats and demonstrated in the streets of Budapest. During World War II, asters were placed ceremonially on the tombs of French soldiers.
The aster plant has been used for various medicinal purposes over the years, too. A tincture made from New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) was thought to help with respiratory issues. It was once used to help decrease headache pain and hangovers, and as a treatment for epilepsy.
Asters in the Garden
Asters are easy to grow and require very little attention. They bloom in late summer and early fall, just when the final bit of summer color begins to fade away. Plus, with its late season blooms, the aster provides nectar and a place of rest for migrating butterflies.
Aster plants tend to grow in a bushy habit and can range from 6 inches up to 8 feet tall. Depending on the variety, some asters can tolerate full sun, while other prefer partial shade. In terms of soil, asters grow best in soil that is rich, loamy, and well-draining, although they will tolerate poorer soils, too. Plants can be grown by seed, root, or stem cutting.
Both the leaves and flowers are edible, while many parts of the plant are used in teas and tinctures.
Members of the Ipomoea genus, morning glories are known as fast-growing vines with a somewhat unique daily schedule: the flowers open in the morning and close up by the afternoon.
The flower’s blue and purple colors are the most recognizable, but morning glories also appear in a range of pinks, reds, and whites. The flowers are trumpet-shaped with five large petals arranged flat around the flower head, making them quite attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
The leaves are large and heart-shaped, and resemble the foliage of a sweet potato (another member of Ipomoea). Common morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea) are native to Mexico and Central America.
Morning glories are toxic and should not be eaten or used for culinary purposes. The seeds of some species are known to contain small amounts of a hallucinogenic substance, too.
Morning Glory Meanings and Symbolism
Like many vining plants, morning glories have long been associated with love.
Morning glories have symbolized love that was never returned, but have also been seen as a sign of undying love.
Each color holds a different meaning: blue represents enduring love, desire, and power; purple symbolizes grace, wealth, and hopefulness; pink is a sign of gratitude and energy; red means passion and strength; white, like many other flowers, symbolizes purity and innocence.
The Morning Glory in History
Morning Glory Pool is part of Yellowstone National Park’s upper geyser basin. It was named in the 1880s due to its resemblance to the flower.
Artist Georgia O’Keefe, noted as one of the key contributors to the establishment of modern art, painted “Blue Morning Glories” in 1938, which is one of her most popular works.
Morning Glory in the Garden
The plant may be annual or perennial, depending on the species and the climate. To give them a head start, soak seeds in water for 24 hours prior to planting. They can be started indoors or planted straight into the soil after the last frost of spring.
Morning glories can deal with poor soil, but prefer to be planted in moist, well-draining soil, in partial shade to full sun. They are easy to care for and bloom from early summer through the first frost.
Morning glories can either be grown with the help of a trellis-like structure—up to 10 feet or more in one season—or be trained to spread as a ground cover. Once established, growth is fast, so a number of morning glory species are considered to be invasive weeds in some locations. Check local regulations before planting.