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Astilbe (uh-STILL-bee)

Common Name:  False spirea, false goat's beard

Light:  - Light sun to dappled shade

Soil:  Consistently moist, humus-rich, well-aerated

Moisture:  Consistently moist

Blooms:  Summer

Zones:  (3) 4 - 8 (9)


Assorted Astilbe plants

Astilbe a. 'White Gloria'

Astilbe Description and Cultural Information

Astilbe x arendsii, astilbe. 2' - 4'. There are many cultivars to choose from in this hybrid group with a wide range of colors, heights, and bloom time. Early blooming astilbes in this group include: 'Amethyst', 24", lilac-purple; 'Bridal Veil', 24", nodding white; 'Fanal', 20", deep blood red with bronze foliage; 'Gloria', 30", dark pink. Midseason blooming varieties include: 'Cattleya', 40", lilac-pink; 'Elise Schluck', 25", deep crimson with dark green foliage; 'Erica', 30", long slender pink; 'Federsee', 24", deep carmine-rose; Hyacinth', 30", lilac-rose. Late season varieties include: 'Glow', 24", bright red; 'White Gloria', 24", white. Zones 3 - 9.

Astilbe biternata, false goat's beard. 3' - 5'. This astilbe is a woodland native with large glossy leaves and white flowers resembling Aruncus. Zones 4 - 7.

Astilbe chinensis, Chinese astilbe. 1' - 2'. Chinese astilbe is a creeping astilbe with hairy foliage and long purple flower columns. These bloom in mid to late summer. 'Pumila' is a dwarf cultivar with 12" purple plumes that grows more like a groundcover. 'Veronica Klose' is a clumping type with 16" dark rose-purple flowers. 'Visions' is one of the best with 14" raspberry red plumes. Zones 3 - 8.

Astilbe chinensis var. taquetti, fall astilbe. 3' - 5'. This group of tall, columnar, late blooming astilbes includes the 42" 'Purple Candles' with purple-red plumes, the 5' 'Superba' with long purple flowers, and the 50" 'Purple Lance', also with purple-red plumes. Zones 4 - 8.

Astilbe crispa, dwarf astilbe. 6 - 8". This is a newer hybrid group of extremely small plants with short, stiff plumes over a small clump of dark green, crispate foliage. Very unlike any other astilbe we've grown. 'Perkeo' has rose-pink blooms. 'Lilliput' has salmon-pink blooms. Zones 3 - 8.

Astilbe japonica, Japanese astilbe. 1' - 2'. These are earlier blooming astilbes with dense pyramidal flower clusters. Hybrids include 'Deutschland', 20", white; 'Red Sentinel', 24", bright-red; 'Peach Blossom', 24", light salmon-pink. Zones 4 - 8.

Astilbe simplicifolia, star astilbe. 8" - 16". This dwarf species has glossy, finely lobed leaves and open, nodding flower clusters and dark red seed pods that add to the flower display. 'Hennie Graafland' has delicate pink, 16" flowers. 'Sprite' is very similar with 12" shell pink flowers. The "Key" series (PPAF) are seedlings of 'Sprite' that grow 18 to 20" high and include Astilbe 'Key Biscayne', 'Key Largo', and 'Key West'. Of the three Astilbe 'Key Biscayne' is the most attractive with bronzy foliage most of the season. Zones (4) 5 - 8.

Astilbe thunbergii, Thunberg's astilbe. 2' - 3'. This species has open, cascading flower clusters on tall stems. 'Professor van der Weilen' has creamy-white flowers. 'Ostrich Plume' has pink plumes. Zones 4 - 8.

How to Grow:  Astilbes are beautiful, long-lived perennials when planted in the proper conditions. Plant them in consistently moist but not wet, slightly acidic, light and airy, humus-rich soil in light sun to dappled shade. Add hydrogel when planting to help with moisture and nutrient retention and help with soil aeration. Plants will grow in deep shade but they won't flower as much. The high open canopy of a shade tree is ideal, provided their moisture requirements are met. Plants will grow in full sun in moist soil, but the foliage may not last the entire summer without the edges turning crispy brown. In the South, plants must have some shade and constant moisture to perform well. When growing astilbe in containers be sure to under-pot them so that they have an excellent supply of oxygen to the root zone, then keep the soil light and airy but water almost every day when it is dry.

Landscape Uses:  Plant Astilbes with ferns, Iris, Hosta, Lobelia, and other moisture loving plants. In the moist border, combine groups of Astilbes with lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis), lungworts (Pulmonaria), and Siberian Iris. Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila' will tolerate drier conditions and is ideal for the shady rock garden or as a ground cover under trees. Plant taller astilbes at the back of the border among taller perennials or shrubs.

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