Perhaps the biggest challenges facing gardeners who have a lot of shade is how to bring color to your landscape. Shade gardens are dominated by the color green and adding some plants with different colors is necessary to break up the monotony of that color. Astilbe is a wonderful candidate for this job! The fern-like foliage makes this plant appear delicate but this is truly one tough customer! It is easy to grow and since this flower is a perennial it will stick around in your garden for many years to come.
Astilbe can be grown in USDA Zones 3 through 9 and they are deer resistant. It flowers in the spring into the early summer and is a good companion plant with Bleeding Hearts, Columbines, and Hostas. It grows up to 3 feet tall and prefers part sun to full shade. They come in a variety of colors including red, purple, peach, white and several variations of the color pink. It is very low maintenance and only needs to be divided every 4 to 5 years. Astilbe creates soft, colorful displays underneath trees, in low light corners or in shady borders. Some are even sweetly fragrant. Their deeply-cut leaves and feathery blooms also offer a great way to add texture and interest to container gardens and cut-flower arrangements.
While dividing it in the spring is recommended it can also be done in the fall without difficulty or negative impacts on the production of blooms the following spring. Dividing the plant is the best way to propagate it as it does not grow well from seed. Astilbe is typically not bothered by pests or diseases and its flower stalks require no additional staking or support.
The plant does prefer to be grown in soil that is moist and even does well near ponds and streams. Some of the smaller varieties also make an effective ground cover as well as a good edging plant. I usually fertilize it in the spring with a standard garden fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 but in years that I don’t get around to doing so, the plant does quite fine. While it is a good plant for partly shady conditions when grown in a more shaded area, it will not flower as prolifically. It is also possible to grow Astilbe in sunnier conditions but the soil must be watered regularly so that the plant doesn’t dry out. The foliage can burn as a result of too much sun and the flowers won’t last anywhere near as long as they do in the shade.
Even though Astilbe will only bloom for a few weeks their foliage retains its color and is attractive throughout the season. It is not necessary to remove the spent flowers and some gardeners actually leave them on the plant to add some additional visual interest to their garden. Astible can be a great addition to any garden and now would be a great time to add some to your garden this year.