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Astilbe, how well does it grow for you?

16 years ago

Hi Everyone,

After posting a couple photos of my astilbes in the Gallery, I was asked several questions about growing them, which I'll answer here.

Astilbe (uh-STILL-be)is often on "Easy Care" lists, and it IS easy to care for, IF you have the right conditions, which are:

#1. MOISTURE. This is the most important factor. They must not be allowed to dry out in the least bit. But they also don't like to be wet in the winter, so they aren't good candidates for a boggy or soggy area. MOIST is the key, not wet.

#2. FOOD. They need about twice as much as my other perennials. I fertilize in October with 20-10-10 and I mulch with mushroom compost in the spring. I added well-rotted manure to one of my beds last year and the astilbe there are the most lush looking and packed with bloom.

#3. LIGHT SHADE. A friend of mine has her astilbe growing in full sun and they are doing fine because of her diligence in keeping them watered daily. . . though I really think they would be even more lovely for her in a partially shaded spot. Similarly, they do not flower as prettily in full shade. BUT if full sun or full shade is all you have, DO TRY THEM. They will bloom quite nicely for you if they have the moisture (and if you are in Zones 4-8).

#4 DIVIDE astilbe every 3 or 4 years to keep them vigorous. They have thick, woody crowns, so you have to wrestle with them a bit when dividing, but the effort is worth the result at bloom time.

Other than that they are a piece of cake to grow. :-)

I don't want to discourage anyone from trying to grow them, but I think there are a lot of people out there who tried them because they read that they were easy to grow, with out realizing the needed conditions. If you want to try growing astilbe, I suggest that you try one or two plants and see how they do in your yard. If you are hotter than zone 8, they probably are not the plant for you, period.

The Astilbe chinensis are probably the most forgiving. I'm using the low-growing and spreading Pumila as a groundcover in small sections of my garden. I think the Visions series is supposed to be quite tolerant of different conditions also, though I have a bunch of it under a Japanese maple and it was pretty crispy looking by August because the maple was sucking up the moisture.

By the way. Astilbes are marvelous plants for winter interest. I never cut them back and leave the flower wands on until Spring. Some will hold up better than others. 'Erica' being the best for winter interest in my opinion. I've seen her bent to the ground, heavy with ice, only to spring back after a thaw. (My plug for 'Erica', she is my favorite plant of all time, because she looks great for so long).

I'll shut up now! Has anyone in the warmer zones had good success with this plant?


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