Astilbe

This pretty perennial will liven up shady spots with its fine-textured foliage and colorful summer blooms.

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.

Astilbe Overview

Genus Name Astilbe
Common Name Astilbe
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 18 to 30 inches
Flower Color Pink, Purple, Red, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers, Fragrance, Good for Containers
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Groundcover

Colorful Combinations

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're 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'll suffer without it. So be sure to plant in well-drained soils with lots of organic matter. Amending the soil with additional compost and peat moss can help retain water and keep these moisture-loving plants happy.

When it comes to light, astilbes are fairly versatile. They can take anything from full sun to almost full shade, depending on the variety. In full sun, astilbes must 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.

New Innovations

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 new varieties are being bred to hold that color all year long. Some even have deep chocolate/burgundy foliage. Another significant improvement is in flower production. This includes increasing the overall quantity of blooms, flower spikes size, and blossoming timeliness. 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

'Chocolate Shogun' astilbe

pale pink 'chocolate shogun' astilbe
Bob Stefko

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

'Color Flash' astilbe

color flash' astilbe with white blooms
Peter Krumhardt

Astilbe 'Color Flash' features beautiful foliage that emerges bright green and ages to bronze, copper, and russet, providing season-long interest. Zones 4-8

Dwarf Chinese astilbe

dwarf chinese astilbe chinensis 'pumila'
Bryan E. McKay

Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila' is a low-growing groundcover with glossy green foliage and is only 6 inches tall. Grape-scented lavender bloom spires reach only 1 foot tall. Zones 4-8

Fanal astilbe

red fanal astilbe
Marty Ross

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

'Federsee' astilbe

pink 'federsee' astilbe
Julie Maris Semarco

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

Superba Chinese astilbe

pink superba chinese astilbe
Stephen Cridland

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

'Visions' Chinese astilbe

pink astilbe chinensis 'visions'
Bob Stefko

Astilbe chinensis 'Visions' has fern-like foliage that is bronze-green with fragrant raspberry pink blooms in midsummer. Zones 4-9

Astilbe Companion Plants

Hosta

green-white hostas with pink blooms
Julie Maris Semarco

Hosta, 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. The larger varieties have heart-shaped leaves almost 2 feet long that can be puckered or wavy-edged. They can be white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged—the variations are virtually endless.

Hostas in new sizes with new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plantain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slugs and deer.

Coralbells

pink heuchera coralbells with path in background
Peter Krumhardt

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 frigid winters.

Japanese Painted Fern

japanese painted fern athyrium nipponicum pictum
Lynn Karlin

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 grand, though not quite as showy. Either will add interest and texture to your shady spots. Closely related to each other, Japanese painted and lady fern are sometimes crossed to create attractive hybrids. Unlike most ferns, these toughies can thrive in dry soil. They'll tolerate some sun if they have ample water.

Garden Plans for Astilbe

Cold-Climate Shade Garden Plan

cold-climate shade garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

The darker parts of your yard don't need to be boring. Use these hardy perennials to add color to shady spots in your landscape.

Click here to get this garden plan!

Long-Blooming Rock Garden Plan

long-blooming rock garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

This colorful rock garden is designed around a couple of very large boulders but could easily be adapted to any rock garden setting.

Get this garden plan!

Easy-Care Summer-Blooming Shade Garden Plan

easy-care summer-blooming shade garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

This mix of flowering shrubs and perennials will fill your yard with color all summer long—plus provide interest in spring, fall, and winter.

Click here to download this plan.

Beginner Garden for Shade

Beginner Garden for Shade Garden Plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

This simple 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.

Click here to get this garden plan!

Bold Woodland Garden Plan

bold woodland garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Add a bright dose of color to a spot under a canopy of tree leaves.

Download this garden plan!

No-Fuss Shade Garden Plan

no-fuss shade garden plan illustration
Illustration by Gary Palmer

This garden plan is the perfect way to add color to a shaded spot in your yard. It features easy-growing perennial flowers such as hosta, bleeding heart, and hellebore.

Click here to download this plan.

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