- 6 Long-Blooming Perennials
- How to Deadhead an Astilbe
- Start by making a visual assessment of the seed heads:
- Astilbes add year-round visual interest to any garden
- The right way to deadhead astilbes
- TWEETABLE TIP
- Bloom Time For Astilbe Plants: When Does Astilbe Bloom
- Astilbe Plant Bloom Time
- Does Astilbe Bloom All Summer?
- Colorful Combinations
- Astilbe Care Must-Knows
- New Innovations
- More Varieties for Astilbe
- Plant Astilbe With:
- Garden Plans For Astilbe
While hostas are terrific plants for shady locations, a number of other perennials are wonderful additions to the shade garden. One of the best perennials for shade is astilbe, or false spirea. Astilbes have beautiful spike-like clusters of flowers that sway gracefully in the wind. Flower colors include white, pink, red, and reddish purple. The flowers are borne on stiff, upright or arching stems. Astilbe foliage varies from dark green to bronze. The astilbe’s combination of colorful flowers and attractive foliage make it a perfect complement to the bold coarseness of hostas. Astilbes also make wonderful cut or dried flowers. Allow a few spent flower blossoms to remain on the plants in fall and you will be rewarded with elegant brown spikes through much of the winter.
Astilbes shine when many other shade loving perennials are waning. They bloom for 2 to 3 weeks. Depending on the variety, astilbes flower from early to late summer. Early blooming varieties begin to flower in late May or June while late bloomers begin in late July or early August. By selecting several varieties with different bloom times, the floral display can be extended over 2 or 3 months.
Astilbes also vary greatly in height. Some varieties like ‘Sprite’ or ‘Perkeo’ grow only 6 to 12 inches tall (bloom included), while ‘Purple Lance’ or ‘Purple Candles’ can reach 4 feet in height. This diversity in height makes astilbes versatile perennials well suited to many areas of the perennial border.
Fertile, moist, humus-rich soil is a must for these shade lovers. Astilbes are unforgiving in dry soils, as the leaves will brown quickly. Annual additions of compost or organic matter around the base of the plant will be rewarded with loads of blooms and healthy foliage. While astilbes require consistent moisture, they do not tolerate waterlogged or heavy clay soils well. Clay and poorly drained soils can be improved by incorporating peat moss, compost, or other types of organic matter into the soil before planting.
Astilbes are easily propagated by dividing large clumps when the foliage emerges in early spring. Vigorously growing astilbes can be divided every 4 to 6 years After division, water and mulch well to aid establishment.
Astibles are native to China, Japan, and Korea. There are 25 different species. Hundreds of hybrids or selections have been made from approximately a dozen species. ‘Peach Blossom’, the first cultivar introduced in 1903, is still available on the market today.
Please see the following chart for a listing of a few of the cultivars that are available with height, flower color, and bloom time for each.
|Cultivar||Height (in.)||Flower Color||Bloom Time|
|A. x arendsii types|
|America||28||Lilac rose||Early – Mid|
|Bressingham Beauty||36-40||Pink||Mid||Arching plumes|
|Bumalda||24||Pinkish white||Early – Mid|
|Cattleya||36-40||Orchid-pink||Mid – Late||Long blooming|
|Erica||30-36||Pink||Early – Mid||Compact trusses|
|Etna||24-28||Dark red||Mid||Dark foliage|
|Fanal||24||Red||Early – Mid||Bronze foliage|
|Granat||24-28||Carmine red||Early – Mid||Bronze foliage|
|Rheinland||24||Carmine rose||Early – Mid|
|Snowdrift||24||White||Early – Mid|
|White Gloria||20-24||White||Mid||Blocky plumes|
|A. chinensis types|
|Pumila||10-12||Lavender pink||Late||Groundcover type|
|Purple Candles||36-42||Reddish purple||Late||Compact trusses|
|Veronica Klose||20-24||Purple rose||Late|
|Visions||12-18||Lilac purple||Late||Compact trusses; bronze foliage|
|A. crispa type|
|Perkeo||6-10||Rose||Late||Crisp foliage; zone 5 hardy|
|A. x japonica types|
|Cotton Candy||12-16||Pink||Mid – Late||Compact foliage|
|Elisabeth||24-28||Raspberry lilac||Mid||Purplish foliage|
|Montgomery||24-36||Dark red||Mid||Dark foliage|
|Red Sentinel||24-36||Scarlet red||Mid – Late||Dark foliage|
|A. x rosea type|
|Peach Blossom||20-30||Peachy pink||Early||Fragrant flowers|
|A. simplicifolia types|
|Aphrodite||15-20||Salmon red||Late||Bronze foliage|
|Hennie Graafland||16-18||Light pink||Late||Shiny dark green foliage; arching plumes|
|Sprite||6-12||Shell pink||Late||Dark bronze foliage|
|A. x taquetii types|
|Purple Lance||42-46||Pinkish purple||Late|
|A. x thunbergii types|
|Ostrich Plume||36-40||Salmon pink||Mid||Arching plumes|
|Prof. van der Wielen||36-40||White||Mid||Arching plumes|
This article originally appeared in the July 14, 2000 issue, pp. 88-89.
6 Long-Blooming Perennials
Perennials are a wonderful addition to any garden. Here are six of our favorites–ones we like especially because of their relatively long bloom period.
Our first three nominees for the longest bloom are right at home in any sunny situation. They reward the eye particularly when massed in sweeping drifts, when blended in the border, or when left to fend for themselves in the wild garden. And they’re drought-tolerant.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ and other varieties) offers up showy yellow-orange petals and bronze-brown central cones that make it ideal for cutting, especially considering the flowers’ 3- to 4-inch-wide span. The bloom show typically starts in midsummer and continues through autumn, especially if the plant is deadheaded (old, faded flowers removed).
Learn more about black-eyed Susan.
Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’ is an award-winning perennial that shows off an almost constant display of lemon-yellow daisy-shape flowers all summer long, especially if you shear the plant back by a few inches after the heavy flushes of bloom.
‘Moonbeam’ and other varieties of coreopsis make good cut flowers and can also be grown in large container gardens.
Learn more about coreopsis.
The “red” in Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ refers not to its flower but its dramatic bronze-red foliage (and the Husker comes from the fact that the plant was developed at the University of Nebraska). Another floriferous toughie, this 30-incher sends up a score or more of airy flower stalks topped with hundreds of tubular white flowers. It’s a top choice of butterflies and hummingbirds.
Learn more about penstemon.
Coaxing flowers from the shade is not really the bugaboo it’s cracked up to be. While you can always rely on hostas and ferns to thrive under your trees, many other plants will readily blossom and brighten shady spots. Here are three perennials that go one step further, blooming for an extended period to provide color for up to three months:
There are a couple of species of astilbe; it’s helpful to pay attention to which type a particular variety is because it influences the bloom time. Astilbe japonica selections typically bloom in late spring and early summer; Astilbe chinensis cultivars typically bloom in mid- to late summer. Select both types to enjoy astilbes practically all summer long.
Learn more about astilbe.
Hellebores (Helleborus) grow about 15 inches tall and start blooming in late winter through early spring. After the petals fade, the sepals stay on the plant, making it look like it’s still in bloom; that display can continue through midsummer.
Hellebores bloom in shades of pink, red, purple, white, and green; some are double or feature speckled petals. The plants are highly poisonous, but that means they’re also deer and rabbit resistant.
Learn more about hellebores.
Fernleaf bleeding hearts (Dicentra) grow about 1 foot tall and wide. Most fernleaf bleeding hearts can bloom on and off all spring, summer, and autumn in cool-summer climates. Varieties are available with pink, red, or white flowers.
Learn more about bleeding hearts.
Discover other top shade-loving perennials.
How to Deadhead an Astilbe
Astilbes are one of those garden plants that are just so easy to love. Originating in Asia, there are now a number of hybrids available worldwide, providing gardeners with a wide range of choice in size, color, and growth characteristics. There are so many different species and presentations — from short to tall, rigid to droopy, and even wispy to bushy.
Their striking good looks complement just about any garden, especially when planted with variegated hostas, grasses, and a variety of ferns. Astilbes in general are gorgeous when they are in flower and the blossom can last for quite some time. Once done flowering, their seed heads also can last a long time, adding texture and visual interest to many gardens with their vertical, bottle-brush, feathery shape. Colors range from white to pink to reds. Astilbes do well in shade to partial sun but they need moisture, so the more sun you offer, the more important it is to have a moist soil profile that enables them to handle it.
Depending on the type of astilbe you have, the seed heads can be sturdy and upright or they can flop over. Sometimes they look great and other times, not so much. Because of the seed heads’ longevity, you’ll need to decide if they add or detract from the overall look of your garden and whether you’ll want to deadhead them or just leave them alone.
Astilbe Ostrich Plume in Bloom
Start by making a visual assessment of the seed heads:
- Are they standing up tall or flopping over?
- Does the seed head color work nicely with the other foliage and blossom in your garden or is it distracting?
- Do you like them or not?
Once you go through this short and easy assessment you can decide whether to deadhead or not. The good news is, if you decide not to deadhead and take a little time to figure out if you really do like how the seed heads look, you can always go back and deadhead later in the season.
Astible Peach Blossom in Bloom
Astilbes add year-round visual interest to any garden
Personally, I love the seed heads of Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’. This is an amazing astilbe with low groundcover-like foliage that will spread beautifully to cover large areas. The flowers are sturdy and low as well as prolific. When they bloom there is a flurry of pink covering the plant. They bloom in August and sometimes right into September, so it’s a great late season plant.
The seed heads are rigid and upright and stand up beautifully to the changing fall season. If you’re lucky, they’ll hold up right through the first snow and provide an interesting visual feature until they are finally buried by higher drifts.
So while I prefer to forego deadheading Pumila astilbes, I’ll assess all other varieties and decide on deadheading them based on their performance and location in the garden. After scrutinizing them using my quick-and-easy assessment mentioned above, I’ll make the call on deadheading. If I decide to leave them alone, I can always change my mind later.
Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’ in Bloom
The right way to deadhead astilbes
Because there are so many varieties of astilbes, you may need a couple of different tools to deadhead them. For the thicker-stemmed varieties, a pair of pruning shears will work well. For the thinner, more delicate stalks, a pair of snips will do just fine.
To start, follow the long seed head down the stalk to the first leaf and snip the stalk just above that intersection. This minimal cut will allow you to see how the plant looks after the initial deadheading while leaving yourself some room to cut further, if necessary. Some plants will look better cut farther down the stalk at the next leaf intersection, especially if the first cut looks a little too “stubby” and obvious.
It’s important to remember that your garden is always a work-in-progress. What works today, may not tomorrow. What was dazzling in your garden this year, may be just ho-hum next year. The point is, your garden is not static – it’s always evolving and changing, so as a garden owner or Fine Gardener, you need to be constantly assessing. We have some clients who hate the seed heads and we just deadhead without much fanfare. Most, however, are like me and like to see how their gardens evolve over the seasons and the years. They trust that we are making decisions about things such as deadheading based on overall landscape aesthetics and structural plant performance.
Atilbe Deutchland in Bloom
When it comes to astilbes, there is no hard and fast rule for this workhorse perennial. They come in so many sizes, shapes, and colors that there are sure to be more than just one variety that will fit beautifully into your gardening strategy. Everyone can – and should – have several varieties in their garden. They’re just so lovely and easy to grow.
Astilbes are gorgeous when they are in flower. The blossoms and seedheads can last a long time adding texture and visual interest to your garden.
Bloom Time For Astilbe Plants: When Does Astilbe Bloom
When does astilbe bloom? Astilbe plant bloom time is usually a phase of time between late spring and late summer depending on the cultivar. Read on to learn more.
Astilbe Plant Bloom Time
Astilbe are popular flowering plants for woodland gardens because they are one of the few garden gems that bloom so brightly in full shade. Their flowers display as upright, feathery plumes and come in shades of white, pink, red and lavender. Each feathery plume is made of many tiny little flowers which open up one after the other.
Astilbe cultivars come in wide range of sizes, from 6” small to 3’ tall. They are relatively maintenance free and their foliage is nice-looking too – deep green and fern-like. They love rich, moist soil. An annual spring dose of 5-10-5 organic fertilizer helps them produce their beautiful blooms year after year from spring through summer.
Does Astilbe Bloom All Summer?
Each astilbe plant does not bloom all summer. Some bloom in late spring, others bloom mid-summer, and the late season astilbe plants bloom late summer or early fall. The trick to extending astilbe plant bloom time is to install a variety of cultivars from each blooming period.
- Consider the varieties “Europa” (pale pink), “Avalanche” (white), or Fanal (deep red) if you want astilbe with late spring or early summer bloom time.
- For astilbe that blooms in mid-summer, you can plant “Montgomery” (magenta), “Bridal Veil” (white), or “Amethyst” (lilac-purple).
- The bloom time for astilbe plants that are late season producers is typically August through September. Consider “Moerheimii” (white), “Superba” (rosey-purple) and “Sprite” (pink).
Take good care of your new astilbe plants. Do not plant them in full sun. After a few years, you will need to divide them in the fall when they start to get crowded. Treat them right and you will have astilbe plant blooms all summer long.
Astilbe is relatively rare as a cut flower. The large flower spikes are made up of hundreds of small flowers arranged in feather-like plumes. Each plume is made up of many tubular-shaped branches of pink-red flowers. White and lavender flowers are also sometimes found. Flowers open from the bottom of the spike upwards. Foliage is fern-like.
This is a popular garden plant in the Northern Hemisphere, where breeding has produced a range of flower and foliage colours.
Astilbe is grown as a field crop. Most are grown in Victoria and NSW.
What to look for
● Buy when 1/2 to 2/3 of the flowers are open, and upper buds are coloured;
● Avoid bunches with yellow leaves, or that drop flowers when the bunch is shaken.
- Keep cool at all times.
- Strip leaves from the lower half of each stem and wash stem ends thoroughly.
- Recut at least 2 cm off each branch and place in water immediately.
- Always use a preservative as this will help buds open.
- Replace vase water with fresh preservative every day.
- These flowers are very sensitive to ethylene. Keep them away from fruit, car exhausts and cigarette smoke.
- Remove dying leaves as these will die off before the flowers wilt.
- Revive wilted bunches by placing them in warm water for 1 to 2 hours.
Botanical Name: Astilbe x arendsii
Common Names: Astilbe, False Goat
Stem Length: 20 to 50 cm
Country of Origin: Japan, Korea, China
Available Colours: Pink, Purple, Red, White
A garden favorite for moist sites, astilbe can be thought of as a multi-interest perennial. Astible is a knockout plant, thanks to its ornamental, fern-like bronze-and-green foliage and its feathery plumed blossoms that look good both in season and dried for winter interest. Just make sure to keep astilbe moist, or its delicate foliage will scorch in the sun.
See more top perennials.
Even if astilbes never bloomed, the healthy foliage of these plants adds wonderful texture and color to a garden. In spring, new foliage often emerges bright green with heavy blushes of bronze. These finely textured mounds of foliage maintain compact balls with no training needed. Come summer, these tight mounds are topped with fantastic spikes of feathery tridents in shades of pinks, reds, purples, and whites. These tall spikes of color command attention in a garden, but also work very well en masse with other plants. The flower spikes can even be left on the plants after blooming for added winter interest.
See our favorite perennial plant combinations.
Astilbe Care Must-Knows
Astilbes are fairly easy to grow plants, with their main stipulation that they need adequate water. They like consistently moist soils, and they will suffer without it. Be sure to plant in soils that are well-drained and have lots of organic matter. Amending the soil with additional compost and peat moss can help the soil retain water and ultimately keep them happier.
When it comes to light, astilbes are fairly versatile. Many of these plants are capable of taking anything from full sun to almost full shade, but this is dependent on variety. In full sun, it is imperative that astilbes receive adequate water throughout the growing season. If the soil dries out, the leaves on your astilbes will begin to brown and curl, becoming unsightly.
New research done on astilbes has focused on improving various aspects of the plants, one of which is foliage color. Many varieties offer green foliage with bronze markings, especially when young, but now varieties are being bred to hold that color all year long. Some varieties even have deep chocolate/burgundy foliage. Another major improvement is in flower production, or increasing the overall quantity of blooms, density of flower scapes, and timeliness of blooms. Many breeders are also working on shrinking down all aspects of the plants. This creates tidy little balls of foliage with shorter blooms that can be used at the front of garden beds.
More Varieties for Astilbe
‘Chocolate Shogun’ astilbe
Image zoom astilbe x chocolate shogun
Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’ is a recent introduction with rich chocolate-purple foliage that is some of the darkest on the market. Loose panicles of light pink blooms show in late summer. Zones 4-8
‘Color Flash’ astilbe
Astilbe ‘Color Flash’ features beautiful foliage that emerges bright green and ages to bronze, copper, and russet, providing season-long interest. Zones 4-8
Dwarf Chinese astilbe
Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’ is a low-growing groundcover with glossy green foliage only 6 inches tall. Grape-scented lavender bloom spires reach only 1 foot tall. Zones 4-8
Astilbe ‘Fanal’ is one of the best red-flowering types. It blooms in midsummer with dark red flowers on reddish-bronze leaves. It grows to 2 feet tall. Zones 4-8
Astilbe ‘Federsee’ bears dense rose-pink blooms on upright stems to 3 feet tall. It has better drought tolerance than most astilbes. Zones 4-8
‘Ostrich Plume’ astilbe
Astilbe ‘Ostrich Plume’ offers large, weeping pink flower clusters that bring elegance to the woodland border. The 30- to 36-inch-tall panicles form in late spring to early summer. Zones 4-8
Astilbe ‘Sprite’ won the Perennial Plant of the Year Award in 1994. Its airy light pink flower panicles are highly branched and appear over glossy green-toothed foliage. Zones 4-8
Superba Chinese astilbe
Astilbe chinensis taquetti is a large plant, growing to 4 feet tall. It bears magenta flowers in mid- to late summer on shiny, dark green leaves. Zones 4-8
‘Visions’ Chinese astilbe
Image zoom Astilbe chinensis ‘Visions’
Astilbe chinensis ‘Visions’ has fern-like foliage that is bronze green with fragrant raspberry pink blooms in midsummer. Zones 4-9
Plant Astilbe With:
This plant rarely grown 40 years ago is now one of the most commonly grown garden plants. Hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners—it’s among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall. Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shape leaves almost 2 feet long that can be puckered, wavy-edged, white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged—the variations are virtually endless. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plaintain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slug and deer.
Exciting new selections with incredible foliage patterns have put coralbells on the map. Previously enjoyed mainly for their spires of dainty reddish flowers, coralbells are now grown as much for the unusual mottling and veining of different-color leaves. The low clumps of long-stemmed evergreen or semi-evergreen lobed foliage make coralbells fine groundcover plants. They enjoy humus-rich, moisture-retaining soil. Beware of heaving in areas with very cold winters.
One of the most elegant ferns available for your garden, Japanese painted ferns are washed with gorgeous silver and burgundy markings. Lady fern is equally elegant, though not quite as showy. Either will add interest and texture to your shady spots. Closely related to each other, Japanese painted fern and lady fern are sometimes crossed with each other to create attractive hybrids. Unlike most ferns, these toughies will tolerate dry soil. They will tolerate some sun if they have ample water.
Garden Plans For Astilbe
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