Astilbe

Astilbe

Also known as: False Spirea

The astilbe plant, named after a Latin word meaning "without luster", was brought to North America by a German botanist, George Arends. The plant is originally from Southeast Asia, found mostly in Japan and China, and is a member of the saxifrage family.

Downy blooms and foliage make astilbe a beautiful textured plant for any woodland garden. Astilbe grows 24-48 inches, depending on the conditions. The perennial works well to provide height in a garden. Expect the plant to flower in early to mid summer with soft, feathery leaves and tiny groups of flowers. Colors include white, pink and red. Astilbe makes a superb hiding place for frogs.

Growing Astilbe

Astilbe can be divided or grown from seed – split in the early fall or spring. Plant it in full to partial sun. Ideally, astilbe should get sun in the morning and partial shade in the afternoon. The plant must have moist soil in order to grow – a strict watering schedule would be beneficial.

Recommended Varieties:

The plant has many cultivars, including japonica, arendsii, crispa and simplicifolia. It comes in full-size or dwarf varieties. Two lovely varieties of astilbe include "False Goat's Beard", which grows "branches" of tiny white flowers, and "False Spirea" which exhibits the more feathery qualities of the plant. Both prefer to grow near hostas, because the two share the same growing conditions. Some say that they actually enjoy each other's company.

Landscape Design Tips

Astilbe is an excellent ornamental plant for ponds. It should receive either full sun or dappled shade. It makes a nice border plant. You can grow astilbe in container gardens, but ensure that the soil is well-drained and constantly moist. You may find that the plant will dry out if placed in direct sunlight.

Gardening Zones

Astilbe is hardy to Zone 6, but does well in zones 4-9.

Potential Problems & Pests

Astilbe can experience browning of the leaves and diebacks through the season if there is drought or insufficient watering. It normally does not experience any serious insect problems or disease, but can suffer from bacterial and fungal blights and spots, and is prone to aphids, thrips, and caterpillars.