February 26, 2012

Plant of the month: Astilbe

It’s almost the end of the month and I haven’t picked a plant of the month yet. This is a tough one because I have a touch of that nasty flu that’s going around. And most of my plants are covered with snow.

So in this situation, I decided to focus on a favorite plant that doesn’t bloom until early summer. Thinking about warm-weather plants seems therapeutic when winter has come late and then lingered too long. And the last thing I want to do is be outside in it for extended periods of time.

This particular plant disappeared from my garden a couple of years ago.


Astilbe, sometimes called False Spirea or Feather Flower was growing in my main perennial bed when we first moved here. But over time it was crowded out by other plants. It’s time to reintroduce it this year!

Astilbe prefers partial to full shade, according to Ohio State University. But honestly, in my experience it has grown better in dappled sunlight. I had a garden bed full of Astilbes at my previous garden, in a sunny bed of plants against the house. And here, in the deep shade part of my garden, it just didn’t thrive as well. When I plant it again, I’ll go with a spot that gets a little more sun.

Here’s what I like about Astilbe:

  • It blooms for several weeks during the summer months, but even when it’s not in flower, the foliage is among the most interesting of perennials.
  • Its blossoms are among the longer-lasting and interesting of cut flowers. If you clip it just before the blooms fully form, the flowers will last in an arrangement for more than a week.
  • Its distinctive feathery foliage provides interesting contrast to other plants around it.
  • Planted in the right spot, the plant can thrive for years with minimal care.
  • It fills a perennial bed with one- to five-foot vertical spikes of color and character.
  • It grows well in zones 4 to 9, in moist, well-drained soil but it tolerates some drought.
I’ve always loved Astilbe. Now I just need to find a better spot for it here.

20 comments:

  1. I also had Astilbe, in some different color, in my former house whose garden was shady, and appreciated its discreet blooming for years. Here in Italy we also call it "Fiore della nebbia", that means "Fog flower".
    Ciao! Get well soon, Beth! :)

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    1. Thanks, Dona. I love the Italian name for Astilbe! It's very appropriate. The colors of Astilbe are beautiful, too, aren't they?

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  2. I have it in a few spots. It doesn't like to be too wet as I found out the hard way and it does like part shade more than shade in my garden. It does not like dry shade however. I think it provides lovely winter interest as well...great plant to highlight Beth....hope you feel better. I had that nasty virus around New Year's Day for a week...

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    1. Thanks, Donna. Good to know that it doesn't like to be to be too wet or too dry. I think I need to find a spot where I can pamper it a little more. I have a location in mind...

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  3. I love this plant too but have not had much luck growing it. Even in my woodland garden the spots I have chosen get too much light and they are not very drought tolerant so in the summer heat they need tender loving care. I keep trying thought because they are so pretty!

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    1. The funny thing is that it grew profusely in my other garden, which was primarily sunny. I think it's just a matter of finding the right combination of dappled sun/shade. Now I'm getting excited about planting it again, after seeing others' comments!

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  4. One of my favorites, too. I must have about a dozen of them in various colors...pink, burgundy, white....and I agree tht the foliage is also pretty. Good luck with the reintroduction.

    donna

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    1. Thanks, Donna. Yes, I LOVE the color variety of this plant, too. I just have to try it again, because it's so unique and beautiful.

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  5. when there is no room for Goatsbeard, the Astilbe is a good second best. Love the ferny leaves, spires (white my fave) and the shade tolerance.

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    1. After hearing all your comments, I'm getting excited to plant this one again. It was such a reliable plant in my other garden, and a wonderful addition to floral bouquets.

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  6. Seems like a good choice for the boring shady part of my small yard. This area does get the dappled sunlight you mentioned, so maybe I should consider the Astilbe. Hope you feel better!

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    1. Thanks--I'm slowly pulling out of the viral fog. It sounds like you have a great spot for Astilbe. We'll have to compare notes after our plants are established.

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  7. I've always wanted to grow this plant. I tried, but I think it was in too much dry shade. Maybe I'll give another a go in a more moist, but a little sunnier spot.

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    1. Yeah, it's so funny. I didn't think of it as a fussy plant until reading other gardeners' comments. Now I feel a little better about its demise here in this garden. I must have had the perfect spot for it at my other lot because it grew like crazy there!

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  8. I've always loved astilbe, but they've never done well for me. Still, it's one of those plants that I haven't given up on yet--I keep adding one every year, in hopes this will be the one that survives:) A friend suggested planting it next to a birdbath so that it receives regular moisture, which makes sense. I think mine have been too close to a big tree that sucks up all the moisture in that part of the garden.

    Hope you are feeling better soon! This seems to be the month for all kinds of nasty germs.

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    1. A birdbath location...good idea! Mine were definitely planted near big trees and other moisture-sucking plants. Feeling better today, thanks! Beth and Wisconsin Februarys aren't compatible. Something about the endless chilly, wet snow/rain doesn't agree with my constitution.

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  9. I only have room for one, and it is behind our house, where it is only seen by us. I hope you are feeling better. There sure is a lot going around!

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    1. Sue, I'll have to check out your blog and search for Astilbe--assuming you've posted about it before? I'm feeling better today. Thanks!

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  10. I have a couple of astilbes too, had to dig them up and move them so they could get more sunshine, as I planted them in too much shade initially. They thrive very well were they are now, in part sunshine, even got a second flush of flowers last summer, when I cut off the first round that got a bit dried and unsightly!

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  11. Dappled sunshine sounds just about right. Thanks for confirming my intuition. :) Now I can't wait to try them in a different spot!

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