Astilbe Plants – The Colorful Heroes Of The Shade Garden

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If you’re looking for a plant that’s easy to grow, adds a pop of color to your garden, and thrives in the shade, then astilbe is perfect! This shade-loving perennial produces feathery, plume-like flowers in shades of pink, red, white, and purple that bloom in summer. Astilbe plants can be showstoppers in any garden with a bit of TLC. 

In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know about growing and caring for astilbe so you can enjoy this stunning plant in your garden year after year. 

Pink, violet, lilac colored spires of astilbe in full bloom.

Astilbe Plants, Heros of the Shade Garden!

Astilbe plants can dramatically impact a shade garden due to their bright colors, tall plumage, and dark green foliage – they can take center stage or create a tall textural, colorful background.

Size and shape:

Astilbe plants typically grow between 1 and 4 feet tall, spreading 1 to 3 feet wide. They have a bushy, clumping growth habit with multiple stems emerging from the base of the plant. The stems are slender and erect, with lush foliage that creates a dense, mounded appearance.

Astilbe Flowers:

Astilbe flowers are one of the main attractions of this beautiful plant. They are feathery, plume-like blooms atop tall, slender stems with fern-like foliage.

The flower heads can be shades of pink, red, white, and purple and bloom mid to late summer. The flower spikes can be long, ranging from 6 inches to 2 feet, adding a graceful, airy quality to the plant.

Astilbe Foliage:

Astilbe leaves are also an essential feature of the plant. They have dark green foliage and come in various shapes and sizes, depending on the species and cultivar. The leaves are often deeply lobed or serrated, with a glossy or matte texture.

Some astilbe varieties have bronze or purple foliage, adding winter interest to the plant even when it’s not blooming. Overall, the lush greenery is a beautiful backdrop for delicate flowers and adds texture to any garden.

Group of colorful blooming astilbe flowers outside.

How to Use Astilbe in the Garden

Astilbe is the hero of the shade garden with its colorful feathery flowers and attractive foliage. 

The plants also grow well in woodland gardens, shade borders, and containers. The wide range of flower colors and sizes makes it a versatile plant for many different designs and garden types.

Astilbe is also deer resistant – deer tend to avoid snacking on Astilbe if they have something else to eat.

A mound of bright pink astilbe growing in a garden.

Types of Astilbe:

Astilbe is a large group of plants with dozens of different types and species. The most commonly grown types of astilbe are astilbe chinensis, astilbe japonica, and astilbe x arendsii.

Astilbe chinensis has lovely deep glossy green foliage with feathery, pink, red, or lavender flowers.

Japanese astilbe or astilbe japonica has dark green leaves, producing compact white or pink flowers on short, sturdy stems.

Astilbe x arendsii is a hybrid between astilbe chinensis and astilbe japonica, and it produces a wide range of flower colors, including pink, red, white, and lavender.

Comparing Different Types of Astilbe Plants

When choosing an astilbe, there are a few key factors to consider. First, consider the flower color and size. Some astilbe varieties produce larger flowers than others, and the colors can range from soft pastels to bright pinks and reds.

Second, consider the height and spread of the plant. Depending on the variety, astilbe can range in size from small, compact plants to large, bushy ones.

Finally, consider the time of year the astilbe blooms. Some varieties bloom earlier, while others bloom mid to late summer.

Field pink and lilac flowers Astilbe chinensis

Choosing Astilbe For Your Specific Gardening Needs

When choosing an astilbe for your garden, consider the overall look you are trying to achieve. Consider a larger variety with bright flowers if you want a bold, eye-catching display. A smaller variety with delicate flowers may be the best choice if you prefer a more subtle look.

It’s also important to consider the growing conditions in your garden, such as the amount of sunlight and moisture available. Some varieties of astilbe are more tolerant of shade and drought than others.

Finally, consider the other shade-tolerant plants in your garden and choose an astilbe that complements their colors and shapes. With such wide varieties, there is sure to be an astilbe that’s perfect for your garden.

Summer shade garden with many different types of flowers.

Popular Varieties of Astilbe Plants For Your Gardens

Here are some of the most popular types of astilbe plants:

  • ‘Fanal’: This cultivar has deep red flowers that stand out against its bronze-green foliage. It blooms in mid-summer and grows up to 24 inches tall.
  • ‘Bridal Veil’: Bridal veil features white flowers on tall, graceful stems. The flowers bloom in mid-summer and grow up to 36 inches tall.
  • ‘Deutschland’: Deutschland has pure white flowers blooming on tall stems in early summer. It grows up to 30 inches tall and has lovely dark green foliage.
  • ‘Purple Candles’: Purple Candles have dark purple flowers that bloom in mid-summer on tall reaching stems. The plants grow up to 30 inches tall and have green foliage.
  • Sprite’: Sprite has delicate soft pink flowers that bloom in early summer on short, compact stems. The plants grow up to 12 inches tall and have fern-like foliage.
  • Visions’: Visions has gorgeous raspberry-red flowers that bloom in mid-summer on tall stems. The plants grow up to 24 inches tall and have bronze-green foliage.
Spire of bright red false goatsbeard against a deep green background .

Growing Astilbe In A Shade Garden

Astilbe is an excellent choice for a shade garden, as it prefers to grow in partial shade or filtered sunlight.

However, too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves and flowers, so choosing a spot in your garden that receives only a few hours of direct sun each day is essential.

Soil and Light Requirements:

Astilbe thrives in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. If your garden soil is heavy or clay-like, consider amending it with compost or other organic material to improve drainage.

When planting an astilbe, please place it in a spot with partial shade or filtered sunlight.

Planting and Propagation Methods:

Astilbe can be propagated by division or by seed. Propagating by division in early spring or fall is the easiest method. First, dig up the plant, separate it into smaller clumps, and replant each clump in a new location.

To grow astilbe from seed, sow the seeds in the fall and cover them with a thin layer of soil. Keep the soil moist, and the seeds should germinate in early spring.

Astilbes are relatively slow-growing plants that do not spread quickly.

White Astilbe flower in the garden.

Potential Problems with Astilbe Plants

There are a few challenges that can arise with astilbe during both the dormant and growing seasons:

Diseases and Pests

Astilbe plants are generally hardy and disease-resistant but can still fall victim to a few common diseases and pests.

One of the most common issues is powdery mildew, which can cause a white, powdery coating on the leaves and flowers.

Other potential diseases include leaf spots, crown rot, and rust. Astilbe can also attract pests like slugs, snails, and spider mites.



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Environmental Stressors

Environmental stressors such as heat, drought, and excessive sun exposure can also affect an astilbe plant.

Too much sun can cause the leaves and flowers to scorch, while drought can cause the plant to wilt and decline. In addition, astilbe can be susceptible to winter damage in colder climates.

colorful blooming astilbe in summer garden in mixed border with hostas and cornus shrubs.

Tips for Preventing and Treating Problems

Maintaining good garden hygiene is vital to prevent disease and pest issues. Good garden hygiene includes:

  • Removing dead or diseased foliage.
  • Cleaning up fallen plant material.
  • Practicing crop rotation.

Choose a spot for astilbe with the appropriate light and moisture requirements to prevent environmental stressors. It’s also crucial to water astilbe regularly during dry spells and to mulch around the plant to help retain moisture in the soil.

Take quick action if you notice any disease or pest issues. If you see pests or diseases, you should:

  • Remove affected plant material.
  • Treat the plant with an appropriate organic fungicide or pesticide.
  • Using organic pest control methods such as hand-picking and companion planting.

By taking proactive measures to prevent and treat potential problems with astilbe, you can ensure that your plant stays healthy and beautiful year after year.

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