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Botanical name: Astilbe chinensis or other specific variety
Common name: Astilbe, false spirea
USDA zones: 4 to 9 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Regular watering. Soil should be moist, rich in organic material and well drained.
Light requirement: Light to moderate shade; filtered light or three to four hours of light per day are ideal.
Mature size: 24 inches high, up to 18 inches wide
Benefits and tolerances: This is a showy shade plant that thrives in moist/damp soils. It cannot tolerate drought or full sun. Astilbes are mostly pest resistant, including deer and rabbit resistant. The exception is the black vine weevil.
Seasonal interest: Lovely base of leaves in summer; showy summer blooms. Even the spent blooms look good in the fall and the dried flowers can adorn the house in winter.
When to plant: Mid-spring or after the last frost
Distinguishing traits. Astilbes have delicate, feathery plumes that bloom above the base of the leaves in June and/or July, depending on your zone.
Even when not in bloom, the plant's fernlike leaves are attractive. The flowers are fragrant and attract butterflies.
As the blooms start to fade in the fall, their structures still add a unique texture to the garden that many people find lovely. In fact, astilbe is popular as a dried flower.
Astilbe is a versatile plant. Here are the best ways to use it:
Planting notes. Astilbes prefer acidic or neutral soil. Add organic material to any soil that is lacking in nutrients. Space 12 to 18 inches apart; dig holes as deep as the container or about 6 inches deep for bare-root specimens.
Keep plants watered and soil moist; extremely hot weather and lack of water will quickly kill astilbes. Otherwise, they are quite tolerant and strong.
Divide every three to four years.
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