How to Plant and Grow Astilbe

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

Astilbe is a knockout plant, thanks to its ornamental, fern-like bronze-and-green foliage and its feathery plumed blossoms that look good in season and when dried for winter interest. 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. Some varieties hold that color all year long, and others offer deep chocolate/burgundy foliage. 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.

pink astilbe x arendsii herbaceous perennial
Karlis Grants.

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

Where to Plant Astilbe

This showy garden perennial produces spikes of beautiful flowers that enliven the garden and add texture to flower arrangements in spring and summer. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-8, it grows best in partial shade, although it tolerates sun as long as it is kept moist.

How and When to Plant Astilbe

Plant astilbe early in the spring in well-drained soil with added compost and a general-purpose granular fertilizer. The cool, moist soil prompts the plant to develop a robust root system.

Astilbe Care Tips


When it comes to light, astilbes are versatile. Depending on the variety, they can take anything from full sun to almost full shade, but partial shade is their preference. In full sun, astilbes must receive adequate water throughout the growing season.

Soil and Water

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 can help retain water and keep these moisture-loving plants happy. If the soil dries out too much, the leaves on your astilbes will begin to brown and curl.


Before planting, rake a general-purpose granular fertilizer, such as 5-10-5, into the soil. The plant needs phosphorus to bloom. After the plants are established, an annual application of the same fertilizer is all the plants need.

How to Propagate Astilbe

Division is the most efficient way to propagate astilbe. These plants grow from rhizomes. In the late fall, dig around the edge of the plant to reveal the rhizomes. Use your hands to gently pull some of the rhizomes away from the main portion of the root structure, being careful to capture the "eyes" the rhizomes grow from. After preparing a new location with loose, well-draining soil and compost, plant the new astilbe directly in the garden. You'll see new growth in the spring.

Astilbe can be grown from seed, but the process takes much longer, and you aren't guaranteed a new plant identical to the parent.

Types 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 var. taquetti 'Superba' 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


green-white hostas with pink blooms
Julie Maris Semarco

Hosta is one of the most commonly grown garden plants. 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, or 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-shaped or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slugs and deer.

Coral Bells

pink heuchera coralbells with path in background
Peter Krumhardt

Exciting new selections with incredible foliage patterns have put coral bells on the map. Previously enjoyed mainly for their spires of dainty reddish flowers, coral bells 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 shady spots. Closely related to each other, Japanese painted ferns and lady ferns 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.

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.

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.

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.

Bold Woodland Garden Plan

bold woodland garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

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

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do Astilbe plants spread in the garden?

    Most astilbe plants spread easily, but they aren’t aggressive. The plants benefit from being divided every three to five years to prevent overcrowding and remain vigorous.

  • Do astilbe plants need to be cut back before winter?

    Yes, even if you divided them. Cut all the foliage back, leaving about 3 inches of stems. Mark their location in some way to prevent accidentally digging them up in the spring before the foliage emerges.

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