Image by Janet Morrell
By Becca Badgett
(Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden)
Likely the focal point of your shady summer flower bed, astilbe flowers can be recognized by their tall, fluffy plumes which tower above frilly, fern-like foliage in the shade garden. These attractive flowers make great companions for other shade tolerant plants, such as hosta and hellebores, for contrasting foliage and coordinating blooms.
Astilbe Plant Information
Twenty five species of Astilbe exist, with hundreds of hybrids available. Some are borne on arching stems, while others are erect. Astilbe flowers range in color, from whites to dark purples, though most are pastel.
In addition, different varieties bloom at different times and are available in varying heights. Astilbe flowers may be a few inches to a few feet in height, depending on the astilbe plant you choose. If you do your research, you’ll be rewarded with their spiky blossoms (in an array of heights) all summer long.
Having and using the right astilbe plant information can mean the difference between a large, fully developed bloom and one that is stunted or displays leaf browning and dieback. Let’s learn how to grow astilbes in a way that promotes the most abundant growth.
How to Grow Astilbes
Astilbe plants grow in shade, but flowers are more productive in an area where gentle morning 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 to it. If your shady areas have poor, lean or rocky soil, add compost and work it in well a few weeks before putting your astilbe 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.
Astilbe Plant Care
While maintenance of the plant is minimal, care for astilbe includes regular, even watering throughout its active growth, especially if planted in areas with more sun.
Occasionally amending the soil with compost or fertilizing with an organic product or fertilizer high in phosphorus is also recommended.
Spent plumes can be cut back in spring or left alone for winter interest. They can also be divided about every four years as needed.
Proper care for astilbe plants and the right location can result in delicate, long-lasting blooms in the spring and summer garden.