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Aiden Jones
Aiden Jones

Astilbe ((FULL))

Likely the focal point of your shady summer flower bed, astilbe flowers can be recognized by their tall, fluffy plumes that tower above frilly, fern-like foliage in the shade garden. These attractive flowers make great companions for other shade tolerant plants, such as hosta and hellebores, with contrasting foliage and coordinating blooms.



Astilbe flowers also need correct soil and moisture to flourish. Astilbes prefer rich, organic type soil. Organic material such as compost enriches the soil and adds drainage. If your shady areas have poor, lean or rocky soil, work in some compost a few weeks before putting your plants in the ground. Amend the soil 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm.) deep so that the roots of astilbe flowers have plenty of room to develop.

While maintenance of the plant is minimal, care for astilbe includes regular, even watering throughout its active growth, especially if planted in areas with more sun. Drying out can lead to leaf scorch, drying leaf margins and can even be the death of the astilbe plant.

The right astilbe growing conditions and fertilizer result in large feathery plumes. Occasionally amending the soil with compost or fertilizing with an organic product or fertilizer high in phosphorus is also recommended.

Proper care for astilbe plants and the right location can result in delicate, long-lasting blooms in the spring and summer garden. There is an astilbe for every shade garden and often one is not enough for the gardener that falls in love with growing and caring for these plants.

If you have a shaded spot where you are hoping to plant astilbe, it pairs well with hostas and ferns. For sunnier areas, peonies, salvia and other sun-loving perennials make good companion plants. With its long-lasting flowers, astilbe is also a great addition to bee and butterfly gardens. Astilbe make excellent border plants, and is a great candidate for mass planting that really makes a bold statement. Astilbe also makes wonderful pond-side plants, providing an inviting habitat for dragonflies and hummingbirds. Regardless of where you decide to plant, astilbe is sure to brighten and dress up any space in your yard.

Planting and growing is easy provided that the proper location is selected. With the right conditions, astilbe will thrive and provide a whimsical look to your planting area. When choosing a location, it is a good idea to select soil that is loose and high in organic matter. Adding compost is a good way to improve the soil, while helping to retain moisture. Once you have selected the perfect variety and appropriate location, plant your roots in holes that are about twice as wide as the roots and about 4 to 6 inches deep. The tops of the roots should be about one inch below the soil line. Be sure to provide enough water for your plants. We recommend watering your astilbes deeply when the soil appears dry. Some gardeners like to apply a liquid fertilizer in June and July to speed up growth. Established plants can be divided after about four years. DIviding and replanting helps to prevent overcrowding.

CharacteristicsCheck the plant tag or ask your nursery professional before purchasing an astilbe for your yard as varieties differ significantly in growth characteristics. Some prefer acidic soil and may not grow well in your yard. If in doubt, get your soil tested to determine its pH.

Select varieties for your shade garden that meet your size criteria. Turn the soil and add plenty of composted materials or peat moss. Spring is the best planting time for astilbes. Be sure the soil drains well. Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch around, but not touching, the base of the plant. Astilbes are not drought tolerant and may die if not kept moist. Remove flower spike after bloom fades.

Astilbe has long been a perennial favorite in the American landscape. In recent years, there have been improvements to this popular group of plants. Breeding efforts from the Dutch hybridizer Jan Verschoor have brought a breakthrough series of astilbe to the industry marketed as the Younique series.

The Younique series is easy to grow and well suited for mid-spring sales. They can be utilized and marketed as accent plants, small groupings, mass plantings or cut flowers. Additionally, astilbe are resistant to feeding by both deer and rabbits.

It is best to keep astilbe evenly moist throughout production. They are particularly susceptible to water stress shortly after planting. In many instances, the initial flush of top growth develops more quickly than the root system. During the warmest times of the day, this leads to high transpiration rates; unfortunately, the plants are using more water than they can take up which results in scorched leaves (brown and crispy leaf margins). Throughout the entire crop, do not let astilbe become overly dry; overlooking the water status of astilbe at any time may lead to injured leaves which reduces their appearance and marketability. However, avoid keeping leaves consistently wet or crown and root rots may develop.

Maintain the media throughout the production cycle with a pH between 5.8 and 6.3. Astilbe require light to moderate amounts of nutrients. Leaf scorch is likely to occur when astilbe are exposed to high salt levels. Routinely monitor the fertility and leach the plants with clear water if the EC rises above 2.0 using the 2:1 extraction method. After transplanting bare root, it is usually not necessary to provide fertilization during the first few weeks of production.

There are only a few problems associated with insect damage or plant pathogens growers may observe on occasion. The primary insect pests of astilbe are aphids, leafhoppers, spider mites and whiteflies. Crown rot caused by Rhizoctonia is the most prevalent plant pathogen; other diseases which may be observed at times include Cercospora leaf spot, Fusarium wilt, Pythium and Thielaviopsis. All of these pests and diseases can be detected with routine crop monitoring; control strategies may not be necessary unless the scouting activities indicate actions should be taken.

The Younique series can be grown into flower by planting them in the late summer/early fall and overwintering the established plants or by planting bare root divisions in the spring. Although plugs are available, I frequently observe that spring-planted vernalized liners do not grow and flower as uniformly as bare root starting materials. Therefore, I prefer to use bare root divisions when spring planting astilbe.

Although astilbe are classified as long day beneficial plants, they can generally be grown under natural day lengths. Plants grown under long days will flower slightly quicker than those grown under shorter day lengths. Providing photoperiodic lighting is only necessary when flowering plants are desired for early spring sales; otherwise, grow them under natural day lengths.

Bare root divisions of astilbe Younique series are currently available from Darwin Perennials (, Pioneer Gardens Inc. ( and Walters Gardens Inc. ( Liners are available from Creek Hill Nursery ( and Pioneer Gardens.

Thank goodness for shade. Our gardens would be a bit less inviting were it not for the canopy of green that filters out the heat and makes the summertime garden a pleasure. However, most summer blooming plants prefer brighter locations and bloom poorly or not at all when grown in shade. Thankfully astilbes are an exception to this generalization.

There are about two dozen astilbe species scattered around the world, with most centered in East Asia. One species is found in the southern Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to Georgia, but it is seldom cultivated. The astilbes most often seen in gardens are the Arends hybrids, a large group of crosses made by German nurseryman Georg Arends during the early years of the 20th century. While these hardy herbaceous perennials of the saxifrage family are great plants available in a variety of colors, they have a reputation for doing best in cooler climates in uniformly moist soils.

The Chinese astilbe (A. chinensis) is native over a wide swath from eastern Russia, through Korea and Japan to the mountains of southwestern China. Of the astilbes, it is probably the best adapted to average garden conditions and is one of the best performers in the South. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall when in bloom and produces a woody crown that expands slowly by short stolons. It has doubly compound leaves, with up to 50 leaflets to 2 inches long that are bright green when mature, but often tinged with maroon flushes when emerging. The foliage dies with the first hard freeze in winter.

Chinese astilbe flowers, at least in the wild forms, are produced in narrow, upright panicles in early summer. Individual flowers are tiny but combined along the panicle branches to create a kind of fat pipe cleaner effect. The typical flower color is a pinkish purple, but modern hybrids are also available in shades of pink and red. Blooms remain at their peak for about two weeks.

Astilbes should be planted in a good well-drained soil that has been enriched with some organic matter. While A. chinensis clones are considered more heat- and drought-tolerant than most astilbes, they should receive normal irrigation during periods of heat and drought. Astilbe will grow in full sun if kept well watered, but medium shade conditions are where they do best. A north or east location in the shade of the home is also ideal. They may be used for massing, as an informal groundcover or as specimens scattered amongst the perennial border.

Here at Mayesh we pride ourselves in sourcing and providing the best products available so you, our customers, can work with high-quality blooms. One of our astilbe growers, Amazing Astilbe, provides us with beautiful astilbe cultivars, and is also a family-run business like Mayesh! Read on to learn more about the history of Amazing Astilbe and the beautiful varieties they grow. 041b061a72


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