A garden favorite for moist sites, astilbe can be thought of as a multi-interest perennial. 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 heavy blushes of bronze. These finely textured mounds of foliage maintain compact balls with no training needed. Come summer, these tight mounds are topped with fantastic spikes of feathery tridents in shades of pinks, reds, purples, and whites. These tall spikes of color command attention in a garden, but also work very well en masse with other plants. The flower spikes can even be left on the plants after blooming for added winter interest.
Astilbe Care Must-Knows
Astilbes are fairly easy to grow plants, with their main stipulation that 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 them happier.
When it comes to light, astilbes are fairly versatile. Many of these plants are capable of taking anything from full sun to almost full shade, but this is 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.
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.
Garden Plans For Astilbe
More Varieties for Astilbe
'Chocolate Shogun' 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
'Color Flash' astilbe
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
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
'Ostrich Plume' astilbe
Astilbe 'Ostrich Plume' offers large, weeping pink flower clusters that bring elegance to the woodland border. The 30- to 36-inch-tall panicles form in late spring to early summer. Zones 4-8
Astilbe 'Sprite' won the Perennial Plant of the Year Award in 1994. Its airy light pink flower panicles are highly branched and appear over glossy green-toothed foliage. Zones 4-8
Superba Chinese astilbe
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
Astilbe chinensis 'Visions' has fern-like foliage that is bronze green with fragrant raspberry pink blooms in midsummer. Zones 4-9
Plant Astilbe With:
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.