Astilbes brighten shady gardens with brilliant midsummer color. They hold their plume-like flowers high above attractive, deep green foliage. Flower colors vary from white. Pink and deep red, through soft lavender and violet. And all are attractive to butterflies and beneficial insects. Time For Astilbe!
Time For Astilbe
Astilbe is a perennial with beautiful, showy flowers atop glossy, fern-like foliage. Astilbes’ flower clusters vary in size from 6 inches to 2 feet and their height ranges from 6 inches to 5 feet, depending on the variety.
If you have a shady area, try astilbes! They are a great way to add color and texture to a place where other flowers won’t thrive. Astilbe should be planted in well drained soil that stays relatively moist throughout the growing season. They prefer soil that has a loose texture and is high in organic matter. Adding compost to the planting area will improve the soil and help it retain moisture.
Water accordingly if rain does not occur. It’s best to water deeply when you water. Astilbes spread quickly and form broad clumps. Their crowns often rise above the soil as they grow, so make sure to cover them with humus-rich soil or lift and replant the clumps. Be sure to divide the overgrown clumps every 3 to 4 years in the spring. You can either replant the divisions immediately or put them in pots to be planted out in the early summer when they are re-established.
Astilbe do fine as cutting flowers if you wish to clip some blooms to bring inside. Removing the flower heads will not promote continued flowering. After blooming has finished for the season, feel free to clip off any spent flower stems. Your astilbes will continue to provide attractive foliage until fall. After the first frost, the leaves may yellow; trim leaves if you wish and fresh growth will come next spring.
How to Grow Astilbes
Astilbe plants grow in shade. But flowers are more productive in an area where gentle morning or dappled sun can reach them for about an hour or two. Astilbe flowers also need correct soil and moisture to flourish. Astilbes prefer rich, organic type soil. Organic material such as compost enriches the soil and adds drainage.
If your shady areas have poor, lean or rocky soil, work in some compost a few weeks before putting your plants in the ground. Amend the soil 8 to 12 inches deep so that the roots of astilbe flowers have plenty of room to develop. Place the astilbe plants into the soil, keeping the crown at the same level as the top of the soil. Water well when planting and keep the soil consistently moist.
Different varieties will bloom anywhere from mid-spring to late summer.
If you plant different types of Astilbe, you can prolong the bloom almost all season. The plumes remain in flower for several weeks and continue to look good as they fade and dry on the plant. No deadheading is needed, since they will not bloom again…
Pests & Problems of Astilbe Plants
Astilbes are virtually trouble free, bothered by few diseases or insects. The tender, new growth may be nibbled on by groundhogs or rabbits, but once the plants have filled out, the plants were no longer bothered.
New research done on astilbes has focused on improving various aspects of the plants, one of which is foliage color. Many varieties offer green foliage with bronze markings. Especially when young, but now varieties are being bred to hold that color all year long. Some varieties even have deep chocolate/burgundy foliage.
Another major improvement is in flower production, or increasing the overall quantity of blooms, density of flower scapes, and timeliness of blooms. Many breeders are also working on shrinking down all aspects of the plants. This creates tidy little balls of foliage with shorter blooms that can be used at the front of garden beds.