Shade gardens are a treat in the summer. Walking through or just looking at shady places with a collection of thriving plants can make us take a deep breath and relax.
Astilbe is one of the shade and moist-soil plants that looks great long after its flowers have faded. Most Astilbe varieties are originally from Asia. They are cold hardy from zone 3 to 9, as well as rabbit and deer resistant. Very few insects or diseases bother them and Astilbe tolerates being near black walnut trees.
The key to keeping them growing well is to never let them dry out and divide them every few years. They form clumps with long underground rhizomes that have to be dug and separated into more plants. A thick mulch will help keep their roots from drying and keep the leaves green all summer. Fertilize them annually with a balanced product such as 5-5-5.
Shop around as there are many variations in size, leaf shape, flower colors, etc. For example, Astilbe Bridal Veil is 3 feet tall when its white flowers are in bloom. Astilbe Purple Candles is 4 feet tall when in bloom. Smaller varieties such as Fanal and Visions are 1 foot tall with dark red flower spikes. The roots are on sale at American Meadows (https://bit.ly/2ylTQVy).
Astilbe is about the only member of the Saxifragae plant family that is upright. Most of its 400 relatives are mat forming and low growing. Astilbe’s other names include Goat’s Beard and False Spirea.
Astilbe gets along well with many plants that make a shade bed that is beautiful for three seasons. Consider these companion plants that have similar moisture and light needs: Hosta, ferns, azalea, rhododendron, impatiens, heuchera-coral bells, caladium, hydrangea, black eyed Susan and columbine.