Astible is a knockout plant, thanks to its ornamental, fern-like bronze-and-green foliage and its feathery plumed blossoms that look good both in season and dried for winter interest. Just make sure to keep astilbe moist, or its delicate foliage will scorch in the sun.
Even if astilbes never bloomed, the healthy foliage of these plants adds wonderful texture and color to a garden. In spring, new foliage often emerges bright green with blushes of bronze. These finely textured mounds of foliage stay compact with no training needed. Come summer, they are topped with fantastic feathery spikes of tiny flowers in shades of pinks, reds, purples, and whites.
Astilbe Care Must-Knows
Astilbes are fairly easy-to-grow plants, with one main stipulation: they need adequate water. They like consistently moist soils, and they will suffer without it. Be sure to plant in soils that are well-drained and have lots of organic matter. Amending the soil with additional compost and peat moss can help the soil retain water and ultimately keep these moisture-loving plants happier.
When it comes to light, astilbes are fairly versatile. They are capable of taking anything from full sun to almost full shade, but this is largely dependent on variety. In full sun, it is imperative that astilbes receive adequate water throughout the growing season. If the soil dries out, the leaves on your astilbes will begin to brown and curl, becoming unsightly.
Plant breeders have focused on improving various aspects of the astilbes, 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, size of flower spikes, and timeliness of blooms. Many breeders are also working on shrinking down all aspects of the plants. This creates tidy little mounds of foliage with shorter blooms that can be used at the front of garden beds.
More Varieties of Astilbe
Astilbe 'Chocolate Shogun' is a recent introduction with rich chocolate-purple foliage that is some of the darkest on the market. Loose panicles of light pink blooms show in late summer. Zones 4-8
Astilbe 'Color Flash' features beautiful foliage that emerges bright green and ages to bronze, copper, and russet, providing season-long interest. Zones 4-8
Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila' is a low-growing groundcover with glossy green foliage only 6 inches tall. Grape-scented lavender bloom spires reach only 1 foot tall. Zones 4-8
Astilbe 'Fanal' is one of the best red-flowering types. It blooms in midsummer with dark red flowers on reddish-bronze leaves. It grows to 2 feet tall. Zones 4-8
Astilbe 'Federsee' bears dense rose-pink blooms on upright stems to 3 feet tall. It has better drought tolerance than most astilbes. Zones 4-8
Astilbe chinensis taquetti is a large plant, growing to 4 feet tall. It bears magenta flowers in mid- to late summer on shiny, dark green leaves. Zones 4-8
Astilbe Companion Plants
This plant rarely grown 40 years ago is now one of the most commonly grown garden plants. Hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners—it's among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall. Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shape leaves almost 2 feet long that can be puckered, wavy-edged, white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged—the variations are virtually endless. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plaintain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slug and deer.
Exciting new selections with incredible foliage patterns have put coralbells on the map. Previously enjoyed mainly for their spires of dainty reddish flowers, coralbells are now grown as much for the unusual mottling and veining of different-color leaves. The low clumps of long-stemmed evergreen or semi-evergreen lobed foliage make coralbells fine groundcover plants. They enjoy humus-rich, moisture-retaining soil. Beware of heaving in areas with very cold winters.
One of the most elegant ferns available for your garden, Japanese painted ferns are washed with gorgeous silver and burgundy markings. Lady fern is equally elegant, though not quite as showy. Either will add interest and texture to your shady spots. Closely related to each other, Japanese painted fern and lady fern are sometimes crossed with each other to create attractive hybrids. Unlike most ferns, these toughies will tolerate dry soil. They will tolerate some sun if they have ample water.
Garden Plans for Astilbe
The shady parts of your yard don't need to be boring. Use these hardy perennials to add color to shady spots in your landscape.
This colorful rock garden is designed around a couple of very large boulders, but could easily be adapted to any rock garden setting.
This mix of flowering shrubs and perennials will fill your yard with color all summer long—plus provide interest in spring, fall, and winter.
This easy plan can make your garden design look like a pro's. Now, anyone can enjoy a perennial shade garden with our selection of foolproof plants.