Orphanage Plant

We had a plant at the spring flower sale that was labeled orphanage plant. I’m not sure who donated it but as stated in an earlier newsletter the name comes from the fact that it was discovered growing in the grounds of an orphanage. The plant is also known as Asteromoea mongolica and Japanese aster or double Japanese aster. The plant originated in Japan and Asia.

I put a small plant in the ground and it is currently blooming. I know some of you also tried it and might find some more information useful.

This plant is not grown much in this country and information is contradictory. Bluestone Perennials does not recommend it for zones 3-4 and suggests mulch for zone 5. Michigan State University plant encyclopedia lists it as hardy from zone 4-8. It is reported as being non-spreading and alternately as spreading via rhizome.
What everyone does agree upon is that it is a delightful plant for a sunny or semi-shady border. It will grow in just about any kind of soil, tolerates heat and humidity and isn’t fussy about watering.

The plant grows 23 to 29 inches tall and will spread 18-23 inches. The single or double flowers rise above fern-like foliage. My flowers all appear to be double, although the plant may bear single flowers early in the season. The flowers are small, white with a yellow center and are aster-like.

The blooming season is reported to be from July through September, although mine have been blooming for about a month starting in mid-August. This may be due to the fact that the plant only went in this spring. Japanese aster is listed as a long blooming plant. It is also attractive to birds, butterflies and bees.

Although my plant is in a fairly protected location I will be mulching it this fall. If anyone has any more information to contribute on the growing of this plant locally please pass it on. Perhaps whoever contributed it can tell us how to keep it through the winter and if it spreads.

Addendum: We eventually found the original donor of the plant and added her observations to the November newsletter. Here they are.

Aline was the donator of the mysterious orphanage plant that we highlighted in the September newsletter. She originally purchased it from Bluestone Perennials and it seems to reseed itself in her garden.

She says that she has found it to be a well behaved, non-invasive plant that needs no special care. It appears to be hardy in her garden. Mine bloomed well beyond the first frost; a great plant for the late fall garden when little else is blooming. I hope all of you who got it from the spring plant sale have luck with it and get a bumper crop of seedlings next season.