Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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Crazy 'bout Kalimeris

One of the longest blooming plants in my garden is probably one you’ve never heard of – Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’ also known as the Blue Star False Aster.

This plant is already covered with 1-inch light purple daisy-like flowers. Most years, it keeps going until the first frost if I give it a good shearing after every flush of flowers.  During last summer, when we had a long stretch of 100-degree days, it was one of the few perennials that kept on pushing out flowers into the fall.

I first stumbled across this plant when researching Piet Oudolf for a garden design class. Oudolf, who helped design the Lurie Garden in downtown Chicago, lists Kalimeris incisa in two of his books, “Planting the Natural Garden” and “Dream Plants for the Natural Garden.”

The latter describes it as “an unpretentious plant which builds into a pleasant cluster of endlessly remontant, lilac-blue daisy flowers. Strong and reliable, it combines well everywhere.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. It resembles a light purple version of boltonia, only shorter and longer blooming, if you’re familiar with that plant.

Kalimeris is not fussy, although it needs watering the first year and prefers well-drained soil. It grows about 18 to 24” tall in full sun or part shade and is hardy in zones 5-9. While it can need some support, the plants seems happy in between other flowers that hold it up without staking. And it can easily be divided after a few years. 

Kalimeris incisa 'Blue Star' and Nepeta x faassenii 'Walker's Low'

In fact, the only thing kalimeris lacks is fragrance. I’ve solved that problem by planting some “Fragrant Returns” day lilies (Hemerocallis) near my main grouping of kalimeris. I'm hoping the light yellow day lilies will complement the yellow center of the kalimeris blooms. Those perky little purple stars already look gorgeous in front of my Walker’s Low catmint (Nepeta x faassenii 'Walker's Low'). In fact, it looks so good that I’ve put off giving the nepeta the first of its three annual shearings for a while.
Kalimeris, a native of China, Japan and Siberia, has been around a long time. It was first mentioned in 1825 and is popular in Europe. One of its cousins, Kalimeris pinnata, was a favorite of Elizabeth Lawrence, the famous southern garden writer. She was definitely a fan of pinnata, a double white False Aster, which she knew as Asteromoea mongolica or the Oxford Orphanage Flower. I would like to add that to my garden as well, but it's only hardy to zone 6.

Who knows? With global warming, I may yet be able to go kalimeris crazy with both varieties.

By Karen Geisler


  1. Karen, if you like the Kalimeris you should look into Gymnaster savatieri. Similar flower. Comes in 2 versions: non-variegated and variegated. I've grown it in considerable shade to full sun. Always great. Starts blooming in early- to mid- summer and goes into fall if you shear it.

    1. Thanks. I haven't heard about that plant before. Looks good on the Web!