Looking to add color to a shady area? Astilbe is a hardy perennial that will add personality to your garden. It comes in a wide range of colors that lend themselves well to cut flowers. For more information on when to plant astilbe and how to grow it, read on.
When to plant astilbe: Astilbe had fern-like foliage and tall stems with tons of tiny blooms. Start by planting your astilbe in the spring, after the threat of frost has passed. Planting by seed is difficult and not recommended, so using small astilbe plants is the best path. After three or four years, you can easily divide your astilbe, which should also happen in the spring.
Planting Astilbe in Different Climates
Astilbe is a hardy plant but it prefers shade and slightly cooler temperatures. In fact, if it is too hot out and does not receive enough water, the foliage will start to shrivel up.
A tropical climate can provide the moist soil astilbe needs but it will be too hot for the plant to thrive.
A dry climate is not ideal for astilbe. This plant craves moist soil. If you live in a dry climate, you would have to be vigilant about water and there are better, more drought-resistant plants to consider.
A temperate climate is perfect for astilbe. The cooler temperatures mean you don’t have to worry about hot summer months and there is usually a steady rainfall to keep the soil moist, at least in the spring and the fall.
With a temperate climate, you can even try to plant your astilbe in full sun, as the weather shouldn’t be too hot to burn the plant. Just be sure to add extra water in the summer.
Astilbe can survive in areas up to hardiness zone 4, which makes it ideal for a continental climate. You will, however, need to pay strict attention to water in the summer.
Always plant your astilbe in at least partial shade in a continental climate and water every morning in the summer.
There is a small chance you can grow astilbe in a polar climate. It can survive very cold winters so as long as it warms up in the summer. Your astilbe mayflower, although it will probably be a shorter blooming period.
Choosing Astilbe Seeds
This delicate-looking variety has a lovely cream color to it, hence the name. The plants will grow to 30 inches tall and 18 inches wide and prefers partial shade to sun.
A more condensed variety, Fanal has deep red blooms that grow up to 24 inches tall but only spread to 12 inches wide. The flowers become darker as the summer progresses and you can leave the foliage out through the winter.
With a gorgeous, light pink shade to the blooms, this variety is a perfect accent to any garden. The flowers will last from mid-spring to early summer and do well in either partial shade or full sun.
How to Plant Astilbe Seeds
The best time to plant astilbe is in the spring. It is very hard to find astilbe seeds but very easy to find young astilbe plants in your local gardening center.
Wait until the last frost date of spring before you plant your astilbe. If it is still cool out, you can wait up until early summer to plant.
Astilbe is a plant that prefers shade or at least partial shade. This makes it a favorite for those with darker areas in their garden as it also brings a lush pop of color.
As a bonus, astilbe is deer resistant and rabbit resistant, so it is great if you live in a rural area.
When planting your astilbe, try to recreate a woodland area. Along with shade, this plant also likes soil that is continually moist.
To get the desired soil conditions, you want an area that drains well to prevent pooling water but also has either access to rainfall or can be supplemented by hand watering.
When preparing the soil, be sure to supplement the area with compost or aged manure. This will lighten the soil up and provide important nutrients to the plant.
While astilbe prefers soil with a pH level that is slightly acidic to neutral, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about testing your area.
After you have your astilbe plants, dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball. Gently place the plant into the hole so that the top of the roots is even with the ground.
Fill the soil in and pack down. If the soil settles into the hole after watering, add more so that the area is even.
How to Water Astilbe
Water is incredibly important for astilbe. If the soil is not kept slightly damp continuously, the plant will suffer.
In the summer, when temperatures soar, pay attention to your astilbe for signs of stress. If the leaves start to curl or turn brittle, it means there is not enough moisture in the area and you will have to increase your watering.
Planting in the full shade can help with hotter temperatures as the shade will keep the soil moister for longer after you water.
Try to water your astilbe plants every day. If there is rain in the forecast you can skip a day but when the summer temperatures start to increase, you will have to stick to a schedule.
Water in the morning will allow the water to remain in the soil for longer. If you water in the hot afternoons, the water will quickly evaporate from the soil.
It is better to water for a long period and deeply than it is to water just a little bit at a time. Deeper watering will promote healthier root structures.
How to Grow Astilbe
You will need to regularly fertilize your astilbe so try to aim for twice a year. These plants are heavy feeders and if they don’t have enough nutrients this will be reflected in their bloom quality.
In the spring, add either compost to your garden or a balanced fertilizer to encourage blooms. Then, in the fall, you can add a fertilizer higher in nitrogen, strengthening the foliage.
The crowns of astilbe roots have a tendency to grow so they are above ground level. To protect them, add a layer of soil or bark mulch.
These roots can form clumps which then makes them easier to divide.
One of the best reasons to grow astilbe is that it is a magnificent cut flower. You can find varieties in a range of colors and this will liven up any bouquet.
Simply cut the base of the flower stalk and place them in a vase with water. They will last up to 10 days.
After your astilbe is finished blooming, you can start to clean up any spent blooms by snipping off the stems. This way you will clean up the plant but the foliage will remain and provide nice greenery well into the fall.
For the most part, you shouldn’t have to cut back your astilbe as winter approaches. The foliage will last through winter and provide a bit of green to your garden.
If you want to clean the plant up in the spring, you can do so early in the season so as to not interfere with the blooming season.
Astilbe is a great plant to have if you want to divide it. Wait until it is established, about three or four years before you divide it.
For division, simply take a sharp shovel and cut through the root structure. You can then move this part of the plant to a new location.
You should be able to see root clumps as these sometimes move to just above the soil level. If they aren’t visible, gently move the top layer of soil around to get a better look.
Dividing your astilbe is recommended as it will allow the plant to flower better and longer. Mid-spring to early summer is the best time to divide your plants.
How long does astilbe take to grow?
Astilbe usually comes as a small plant that is ready to bloom right away. It will grow steadily each year, which will allow you to divide it into other parts of your garden.
While you can start astilbe from seed, it is very hard to get the seeds to germinate. Most plants that start this way don’t make it so it is much easier to simply purchase plants.
While your astilbe will grow in the first year of planting, don’t expect too much flower activity. In the second year after planting, however, your astilbe will be more established and will really start to bloom and spread out.
Astilbe is an excellent addition to a shade garden. You can find small plants at any local gardening shop as starting from seed is very difficult. Plant astilbe in the spring and you will have blooms that last through summer.