Astilbes

Astilbe
Common names: False spirea, false goat’s beard, meadowsweet

Botanical name: Astilbe contains several species from the Saxifragacae family with more hybrids added frequently. They include Astilbe arendsii, Astilbe chinensis, Astilbe simplicifolia, and Astilbe taquetii. Of these, Astilbe arendsii varieties are the most popular.

General information: Astilbe species are native to Asia and North America. They are hardy perennials that enhance the landscape with feathery blooms in white, pink, or red. They tolerate full shade. However, they will bloom more profusely if they get a bit of sun. Astilbes need moist, fertile soil. Propagate through division when the plants become crowded – about every four to five years.

Characteristics
Check the plant tag or ask your nursery professional before purchasing an astilbe for your yard as varieties differ significantly in growth characteristics.  Some prefer acidic soil and may not grow well in your yard.  If in doubt, get your soil tested to determine its pH.

Size: varies by cultivar from 6 inches to 4 feet
Flowers: varies by cultivar — white, pink, rose, red, lavender. Feathery plumes, high above the plant, add interesting texture to a shady garden
Bloom time: varies by variety from spring to mid-summer; blooms usually last four to six weeks
Leaves: dark, shiny green
Pests and Disease: generally healthy plants, keep an eye out for slugs and powdery mildew and treat appropriately.

Growing in North Texas
Dale Groom in his book, “Texas Gardening Guide”, suggests the following varieties for consideration in your shade garden: Europa, Gladstone, Bridal Veil, Fanal, Peach Blossom, Amethyst, Intermezzo, and Red Sentinel.

Select varieties for your shade garden that meet your size criteria. Turn the soil and add plenty of composted materials or peat moss. Spring is the best planting time for astilbes. Be sure the soil drains well. Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch around, but not touching, the base of the plant. Astilbes are not drought tolerant and may die if not kept moist. Remove flower spike after bloom fades.


References:
“Texas Gardening Guide”; Dale Groom; Cool Springs Press; 1997; pp 228-229.
“Making the Most of Shade”; Larry Hodgson; Rodale Press; 2005; pp 136-137.
Iowa State University extension service
http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/node/1409

Missouri Botanical Gardens: Astilbe chinensis
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?code=B600

Keywords (tags)
shade, perennial, flowering, shrub

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