Astilbe thrive in shady gardens but will take sunshine if they are well watered.
This is not a plant of the hot, dry, sunny garden or the dry shade garden.
The really do demand adequate water if they are going to live and bloom well.
They are more a plant of cool climates – so those in high heat areas might have difficulty growing them. This is particularly true if you withhold water at all.
This is a plant that thrives on the edges of naturalized ponds where moisture is plentiful.
This varies between species and varieties but anywhere from 6-inches right through to 3-feet in flower height.
The good news is that none of them require staking.
The main quality for success with this plant is dampish soils but do not grow underwater – the crowns require good drainage and not standing water.
When happy, this is a fast spreading plant and will require regular edging to keep it within bounds. In a previous shade garden, I considered it a weed and rigorously edged it twice a year. In gardens where everything is to the liking of this plant, it can become a very fast growing plant – able to invade all open spaces.
While Astilbe will start from seed, it is much easier to divide this plant in early spring or fall. Division also means your new plant will be identical to the parent plant.
And trust me on this – once you have this plant, it will spread fast enough for you to have as many as you want. Simply dig off a chunk of the mother plant with a shovel and move to a new section of the garden. Ensure you get some new growth with the division and the plant will move successfully.
Astilbe japonica ‘Koln”
This plant is hardy down into a USDA zone 3 so it is quite suitable for most areas.
Some interesting varieties
It is quite impossible to list all the Astilbe available in the nursery trade. There are literally hundreds of them.
This list includes some of the best I’ve grown over the past few years.
- ’Amethyst’ deep lavender
- ’Bressingham Beauty’ vibrant, deep pink
- ’Fanal’ older variety bronze leaves in spring then green, red plumes
- ’Flamingo’ taller variety with flamingo-pink flowers
- ’Peaches and Cream’ pale pink shading to white, mid-summer bloomer
- ’Snowdrift’ a pure white bloom on top of compact leaves
- ’Eden’s Odysseus’ soft pink flower with lacy bronze-reddish leaves
- ’Jump and Jive’ a magenta pink flower over green compact foliage
- ’Peach Blossom’ soft peach-pink flowers
- ’Sprite’ shell pink flowers over bronze leaves. Perennial Plant of the Year
- ’Milk and Honey’ white and pink blend, tolerates drier soil than most
- Astilbe chinensis var pumila, a dwarf with lavender-rose flowers
Quick Notes on Hybrids
Astilbe x arendsii (hybrids)
The vast majority of what you’ll be able to find in nurseries are in this grouping. And some, such as the 1933 variety ‘Fanal’ are still sold today.
This species produced a subspecies named pumila and I’ve grown this short, bushy plant. There are some varieties coming onto the market for it as well.
- ‘Finale’ 18-inches tall and light pink blooms
- ‘Pumila’ (the variety Pumila not the species- yeah confusing) is most often seen. The flower is purplish-lavender and it’s a seriously variable plant – ranging in height fronm 8-inches up to 24-inches.