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Midwest Gardening
Astilbe

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Astilbe graceful plumes for the shade garden

Known by many names (False Spirea, Meadowsweet, Feather Flower), Astilbe is one of the most attractive shade perennials available.  Graceful feathery flower spikes add eye catching color to a shade garden, and make a bold vertical statement.  Full sun can only be tolerated with a constant supply of moisture.  Hundreds of cultivars display a wide range of flower color and diverse foliage characteristics.  The finely divided foliage adds color and interest to the shade garden even when not blooming.  Astilbe grown in a container can be moved with the shade as the season changes, or can be brought inside as a houseplant.  Astilbe is stunning in a vase and excellent for woodland plantings.  Astilbe is a long lived perennial and can be expected to live about 10 years in ideal conditions.  Plant rhizomes 4 inches deep.

 

Astilbe chinensis ‘Visions in White’Astilbe Visions in white perennial

  • Common Name: Chinese Astilbe
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  18-24”
  • Spread: 12-18”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Shade to part shade
  • Water Requirements:  Requires regular watering, increasing water as the plants grow and the blooms appear.
  • Soil Requirements:  Prefers cool, moisture retentive soil.  Prefers acidic soil and is subject to chlorosis in alkaline soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Compact, upright and spreading.
  • Bloom Time: May to July
  • Bloom Color: Creamy white
  • Bloom Form:  Feathery triangular plumes held on strong thick stems.
  • Foliage:  Smooth glossy dark green. deeply cut fine ferny leaves.
  • Fragrance:  Light sweet fragrance
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer resistant
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize in late spring before flowering begins.
  • Maintenance:  Easy to grow and care for.  Foliage left over winter will help protect the rhizomes.  Clean up previous year’s foliage in early spring before growth begins.  Cut back the flower stalks after the blooms have faded and a second flush of blooms may occur later in summer.  Divide in early spring every few years to maintain plant health.
  • Other:  Attracts butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 3 -9

‘Visions in White’ produces white plumes from early to mid summer.  The Chinese Astilbe tend to bloom a bit later than other Astilbe species, so used in combination in the garden, the bloom period can be extended.  The foliage remains dense to the ground, making it attractive at the front of the garden and not requiring face plants to cover ragged foliage.  The foliage is more finely textured that other selections in the Visions series.

Dappled light and a somewhat sheltered location is ideal for ‘Visions in White’, but the Visions series Astilbe can take a bit more sun than standard Astilbe.. Blooming in both full sun and full shade will not be as prolific as in dappled to part shade.  Cut back the spent blooms of ‘Visions in White’ and a second flush of blooms may be produced late in the season.  Apply a thick mulch around the root zone to help retain soil moisture.  Chinese Astilbe can withstand some drought periods, but blooming and foliage appearance is far superior in consistently moist soil.  If frost heaves the crown up out of the soil, press back into the soil and apply organic matter to protect the crown.

 

Astilbe chinensis ‘Visions in Pink’Astilbe visions in pink by Mandy Jansen

  • Common Name: Chinese Astilbe
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  18-30”
  • Spread:  18-20”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Full shade to part sun
  • Water Requirements:  Requires regular watering, increasing water as the plants grown and the blooms appear.
  • Soil Requirements:  Moist, fertile, well drained soil.  Prefers acidic soil and is subject tochlorosis in alkaline soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Dense upright, with a compact mound of foliage.
  • Bloom Time: May to July
  • Bloom Color: Pale raspberry pink
  • Bloom Form:  Long narrow and branched plumes
  • Foliage:  Large blue green, deeply incised leaves coarsely textured
  • Fragrance:  Light sweet fragrance
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer resistant.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize in late spring before flowering begins.
  • Maintenance:  Easy to grow and care for.  Foliage left over winter will help protect the rhizomes.  Clean up previous year’s foliage in early spring before growth begins. Cut back the flower stalks after the blooms have faded and a second flush of blooms may occur later in the summer.  Divide in early spring every few years to maintain plant health.
  • Other:  Attracts butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 4-9

Graceful pink plumes light up the shade garden in spring.  Stunning and bright when grown with white blooming perennials.  Foliage of ‘Visions in Pink’ is often a bronzed green with a lacy leaf that adds texture to the garden.  The foliage remains dense to the ground, making it attractive at the front of the garden and not requiring face plants to cover ragged foliage.

The plant is somewhat drought tolerant, but performs substantially better in consistently moist soil.  The Visions series Astilbe can take a bit more sun than standard Astilbe.  Blooming in both full sun and full shade will not be as prolific as in dappled to part shade.  Apply a thick mulch around the root zone to help retain soil moisture.  If frost heaves the crown up out of the soil, press back into the soil and apply organic matter to protect the crown.

Cut ‘Visions in Pink’ for the vase when blooms are half open.  Vision series Astilbe are stunning in a shade garden, containers, or water feature that supplies part shade and moist soil.

 

Astilbe chinensis ‘Rise and Shine’
astilbe 'rise and shine' perennial

  • Common Name: False Spirea
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  24-27”
  • Spread: 12-18”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Full shade to light sun
  • Water Requirements:  Soil should be kept consistently moist, somewhat drought tolerant.  Prefers consistent watering, increasing water as the plants grow and the blooms appear.
  • Soil Requirements:  Prefers cool, enriched well drained soil, adaptable to average soil. Prefers acidic soil and is subject to chlorosis in alkaline soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Upright, compact foliage
  • Bloom Time: June through July
  • Bloom Color: Deep rosy pink
  • Bloom Form:  8” long pyramidal plumes on strong stems
  • Foliage:  Green, deeply dissected coarse foliage.
  • Fragrance:  Light fragrance
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer and rabbit resistant foliage
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize in late spring before blooming begins.
  • Maintenance:  Easy to grow and care for.  Foliage left over winter will help protect the rhizomes.  Clean up previous year’s foliage in early spring before growth begins. Divid in early spring every few years to maintain plant health.
  • Other:  Attracts butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 4-9, may be hardy in zone 3 with winter protection.

‘Rise and Shine’ hybrid acquires a moderate tolerance for sun and drought from the A. chinensis species, as well as vibrant color.  The Chinese Astilbe tend to bloom a bit later than other Astilbe species, so used in combination in the garden, the bloom period can be extended.  The stems are strong and do not need staking.  The foliage remains dense to the ground, making it attractive at the front of the garden and not requiring face plants to cover ragged foliage.

Blooming in both full sun and full shade will not be as prolific as in dappled to part shade, as well as dry or very wet conditions.  Apply a thick mulch around the root zone to help retain soil moisture.  If frost heaves the crown up out of the soil, press back into the soil and apply organic matter to protect the crown.

‘Rise and Shine’ makes a strong statement in any garden with large fluffy flower stalks and sturdy foliage.  Flowers are excellent for cutting and drying, cut plumes when flowers are half open.

 

Astilbe japonica x arendsii ‘Deutschland
Astilbe, Deutschland by Gary

  • Common Name: False spirea
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  18-30”
  • Spread:  18-24”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Shade to part sun
  • Water Requirements:  Requires regular watering, do not allow soil to dry out. Increase the watering as the plants grow and the blooms appear.
  • Soil Requirements:  Prefers organically rich, well drained, moist soil.  Prefers acidic soil and is subject to chlorosis in alkaline soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Mounded foliage with flower stems rising to about 2 feet.
  • Bloom Time: May through June
  • Bloom Color: Pure white
  • Bloom Form:  Upright dense pyramidal flower plumes
  • Foliage:  Glossy green, sometimes tinged with red, deeply cut foliage.
  • Fragrance:  Light fragrance
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer resistant
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize in late spring before blooming begins.
  • Maintenance:  Easy to grow and care for.  Foliage left over winter will help protect the rhizomes.  Clean up previous year’s foliage in early spring before growth begins.  Divide every 3-4 years to maintain plant health and reduce crowding.
  • Other:  Will tolerate pretty dense shade, black walnuts and deer  Attracts butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 4-9

Stunning impact is achieved when ‘Deutschland’ is massed or grouped in a shade garden.  The airy flower plumes move with the breezes. Flower plumes are excellent for cutting or drying, cut when flowers have half opened.  Allow flower stalks to over winter for added interest in the winter garden.  Removing faded blooms will not encourage additional blooming, but may be the preference of the gardener to “clean up” for a neater appearance.  The foliage remains dense to the ground, making it attractive at the front of the garden and not requiring face plants to cover ragged foliage.

Blooming in full sun, full shade, overly wet or overly dry soil will not be as prolific as in dappled to part shade and evenly moist conditions.  ‘Deutschland’ will suffer in sunny dry locations.  Apply a thick mulch around the root zone to help retain soil moisture.

 

Astilbe x arendsii ‘Fanal’Astilbe x arendsii 'Fanal' blooms by the ordinary gardener

  • Common Name: False spirea
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  12-24”
  • Spread:  12”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Shade to part shade
  • Water Requirements:  Requires regular watering, do not allow soil to dry out. Increase the watering as the plants grow and the blooms appear.
  • Soil Requirements:  Prefers organically rich, well drained, moist soil.  Prefers acidic soil and is subject to chlorosis in alkaline soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Clump forming foliage with flower stems rising above.
  • Bloom Time: July through August
  • Bloom Color: Bright red.
  • Bloom Form:  12” Upright plumes
  • Foliage:  Mahogany in spring, maturing to green.  Lacy, deeply cut leaves.
  • Fragrance:  Light fragrance
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer resistant
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize in late spring before blooming begins.
  • Maintenance:  Easy to grow and care for.  Foliage left over winter will help protect the rhizomes.  Clean up previous year’s foliage in early spring before growth begins.  Divide every 3-4 years to maintain plant health and reduce crowding.
  • Other:  Attracts butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 3-8
Astilbe x arendsii 'Fanal' by the ordianry gardener

The ruby red blooms of ‘Fanal’ are especially beautiful when surrounded by white flowering perennials.  ‘Fanal’s’ dazzling red is the best of all the red Astilbe. If blooms are left on the plant, the flowers turn shades of rusty brown by autumn, creating a wonderful display in the winter garden. 

‘Fanal’ will perform best in dappled shade or morning sun if given adequate moisture.  ‘Fanal’ can dry out easily, be sure your soil is moisture retentive.  ‘Fanal’ is a stunning cut flower, cut when flowers are about half open.  Removing faded blooms will not encourage additional blooming, but may be the preference of the gardener to “clean up” for a neater appearance.  But considering ‘Fanal’s’ unusual winter display, you may want to leave the flower plumes for the winter garden.  The foliage remains dense to the ground, making it attractive at the front of the garden and not requiring face plants to cover ragged foliage.

 Blooming in full sun, full shade, overly wet or overly dry soil will not be as prolific as in dappled to part shade and evenly moist conditions.  ‘Fanal’ will suffer in sunny dry locations.  Apply a thick mulch around the root zone to help return soil moisture.

 

Astilbe japonica ‘Elisabeth van Veen’
Astilbe japonica 'Elizabeth van Veen' perennial

  • Common Name: False spirea
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  24-30”
  • Spread:  18-30”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Part shade to part sun.
  • Water Requirements:  Requires regular watering, do not allow soil to dry out. Increase the watering as the plants grow and the blooms appear.
  • Soil Requirements:  Prefers organically rich, well drained, moist soil.  Prefers acidic soil and is subject to chlorosis in alkaline soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Upright clump forming
  • Bloom Time: Late June through August
  • Bloom Color: Raspberry lilac on deep red stems
  • Bloom Form:  Dense pyramidal plumes
  • Foliage:  Glossy green, coarse textured and deeply dissected, sometimes with tinges of red
  • Fragrance:  Light fragrance
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer resistant.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize in late spring before blooming begins.
  • Maintenance:   Easy to grow and care for.  Foliage left over winter will help protect the rhizomes.  Clean up previous year’s foliage in early spring before growth begins.  Divide every 3-4 years to maintain plant health and reduce crowding.
  • Other:  Attracts butterflies
  • Hardiness:  Zones 4-9

Striking red stems precede the blooms of ‘Elisabeth van Veen’.  Then the lacy plumes burst into dramatic raspberry colored blooms.  A show stopper when paired with white blooming perennials.  ‘Elisabeth van Veen’ is lovely in a vase with white asiatic lilies, cut when flowers are about half open.  Removing faded blooms will not encourage additional blooming, but may be the preference of the gardener to “clean up” for a neater appearance.  The foliage remains dense to the ground, making it attractive at the front of the garden and not requiring face plants to cover ragged foliage.

Blooming in full sun, full shade, overly wet or overly dry soil will not be as prolific as in dappled to part shade and evenly moist conditions.  ‘Elisabeth van Veen’ will suffer in sunny dry locations.  Apply a thick mulch around the root zone to help return soil moisture.

 

Astilbe arendsii ‘Sister Theresa’
Astilbe arendsii 'Sister Theresa'

  • Common Name: False Spirea
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  18-24”
  • Spread:  16-20”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Part shade to part sun
  • Water Requirements:  Requires regular watering, do not allow soil to dry out.  Increase the watering as the plants grow and the blooms appear.
  • Soil Requirements:  Prefers organically rich, well drained, moist soil.  Prefers acidic soil and is subject to chlorosis in alkaline soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Upright spreading clump.
  • Bloom Time: June through July
  • Bloom Color: Large salmon pink plumes on 2’ stems.
  • Bloom Form:  Upright dense wide pyramids of flowers.
  • Foliage:  Dark green, finely cut, fern-like
  • Fragrance:  Light fragrance.
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer resistant
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize in late spring before blooming begins.
  • Maintenance:  Easy to grow and care for.  Foliage left over winter will help protect the rhizomes.  Clean up previous year’s foliage in early spring before growth begins. Divide every 3-4 years to maintain plant health and reduce crowding.
  • Other:  Attracts butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 4-8

‘Sister Theresa’ displays beautiful fluffy salmon pink flowers, densely packed on upright stalks.  Occasionally the bloom color will display darker.  One of the best Astilbe to brighten your shade garden.  Flower plumes are excellent for cutting or drying, cut when flowers have half opened.  Allow flower stalks to over winter for added interest in the winter garden.  Removing faded blooms will not encourage additional blooming, but may be the preference of the gardener to “clean up” for a neater appearance.  The foliage remains dense to the ground, making it attractive at the front of the garden and not requiring face plants to cover ragged foliage.

Blooming in full sun, full shade, overly wet or overly dry soil will not be as prolific as in dappled to part shade and evenly moist conditions.  Apply a thick mulch around the root zone to help retain soil moisture.

 

Astilbe japonica x arendsii ‘Boogie Woogie’
Astilbe arendsii 'Boogie Woogie'

  • Common Name: False Spirea
  • Plant Type:  Herbaceous perennial
  • Height:  15-26”
  • Spread:  12-18”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements:  Shade to light sun
  • Water Requirements:  Requires regular watering, do not allow soil to dry out.  Increase the watering as the plants grow and the blooms appear.
  • Soil Requirements:  Prefers organically rich, well drained, moist soil.  Prefers acidic soil and is subject to chlorosis in alkaline soil.
  • Growth Habit:  Upright, spreading clump.
  • Bloom Time: June through July
  • Bloom Color: Bright magenta pink
  • Bloom Form:  Large upright plumes of loosely branched flowers
  • Foliage:  Medium to dark green, deeply cut, fern-like.
  • Fragrance:  None noted.
  • Pest and Disease Resistance:  Deer resistant.
  • Fertilize:  Fertilize in late spring before blooming begins.
  • Maintenance:  Easy to grow and care for.  Foliage left over winter will help protect the rhizomes.  Clean up previous year’s foliage in early spring before growth begins. Divide every 3-4 years to maintain plant health and reduce crowding.
  • Other:  Attracts butterflies.
  • Hardiness:  Zones 4-9

‘Boogie Woogie’ sports striking magenta airy blooms on tall stalks.  It is one of Harrie Verduin’s “music” series of Astilbe, which also includes ‘Rhythm and Blues’ and ‘Drum and Bass’All are prolific bloomers and absolutely stunning in masses.  Flower plumes are excellent for cutting or drying, cut when flowers have half opened.  Allow flower stalks to over winter for added interest in the winter garden.  Removing faded blooms will not encourage additional blooming, but may be the preference of the gardener to “clean up” for a neater appearance.  The foliage remains dense to the ground, making it attractive at the front of the garden and not requiring face plants to cover ragged foliage.

Blooming in full sun, full shade, overly wet or overly dry soil will not be as prolific as in dappled to part shade and evenly moist conditions.  Apply a thick mulch around the root zone to help retain soil moisture.

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