Astilbes are small flowering plants with feathery plumes in pink or white atop fern-like foliage. They add vibrant color to a shady garden, plus they’re deer-resistant! Planted in the fall or spring, these perennials will flower from late spring into late summer. Learn how to grow and care for astilbe.
Deceptively delicate in appearance, this moisture- and semi-shade-loving perennial is hardy to Zone 4. Astilbe will provide blooms from late spring to late summer, depending on the variety. A few selections are even fall flowering. With proper moisture, the foliage remains attractive throughout its blooming period. They prefer a soil pH of slightly acidic to neutral.
Astilbes (Astilbe spp.) are clump-forming perennials that belong to the saxifrage family and arise from a stout rootstock. The upright stems bear fern-like green foliage and feathery plumes extending above the foliage in shades of pink, red, purple, or white. The flower clusters vary in size from 6 inches to 2 feet, and the plant height ranges from 6 inches to 5 feet, depending on the variety.
They’ll add a splash of color to perennial borders, wet sites, containers, and groundcovers. The plant attracts butterflies and is resistant to rabbits and deer. The showy flowers are excellent for floral cuttings or use in a dried arrangement.
Astilbes prefer light to moderate shade, but deep shade will result in few and/or poor flowers; full sun will burn the tender foliage. These plants demand moist, damp soil, but also it must drain well and not puddle, which would ensure their failure. Amend the soil with compost or aged manure (especially in clay types) to increase fertility; astilbe is a heavy feeder. Add perlite and coarse sand to improve drainage.
When to Plant Astilbe
Astilbe is usually planted as small plants purchased from garden stores in spring or fall.
Starting from seed is very difficult for the home gardener; astilbe can be difficult to germinate, and resulting plants tend to be short-lived.
Division is recommended to create new plants at home. Divide existing astilbe plants in early spring as soon as you see new growth.
How to Plant Astilbe
Plant purchased plants about 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the type. Dig the hole and loosen the soil to about 10 to 12 inches deep. Mix in a handful of compost. Set the crown (where roots and plant connect) just below the soil line. Backfill with the soil removed from the hole. Water well after planting.
If setting bare-root plants, dig holes twice as wide as the plants’ roots and 4 to 6 inches deep. Place the plants so the roots are fanned slightly and pointing downwards, with the crown planted 1 to 2 inches below the ground level. Cover the roots with soil and press firmly.
Water well and keep consistently moist (not soaked).
Check that astilbes are moist. If rain does not occur, water deeply and regularly. Do not sprinkle frequently.