These graceful plants combine showy flowers and handsome, fernlike foliage. Small blossoms in white, pink, peach, rose, red, or purple appear in airy, feathery plumes held by thin, wiry stems ranging in length from 6 inches to 3 feet or more. Most grow 23 feet wide.
Astilbes are the mainstay of shady borders in the Upper and Middle South but can take some sun in the Upper South if given plenty of water. Combine with columbine (Aquilegia), meadow rue (Thalictrum), hosta, and epimedium in shady borders, or with peonies (Paeonia), delphinium, and irises in sunnier spots. Effective at the edge of ponds, along shady paths, in mass plantings, and in pots. Seldom browsed by deer.
All astilbes need moist, well- drained soil with ample organic matter. Cut off faded flower stems. Divide clumps every 4 to 5 years in autumn or in early spring.
Growing astilbes in the Lower South is challenging, to say the least. Give them rich, well-drained soil, full shade, and plenty of water. If they dry out in summer, the party's over.
- Most astilbes sold belong to this hybrid group or are sold as such.
- Parentage is complex, but plants often have Astilbe japonica, Astilbe chinensis, and/or Astilbe thunbergii in their ancestry.
- The plants differ chiefly in minor botanical details.
- Here are some of the many selections in use.
- Bloom times run from late spring for the early types to late summer for the late-flowering sorts.
- Lavender, 34 feet.
Beauty of Ernst
- (Color Flash).
- Late season, 1 feet tall.
- Pink flowers.
- Colorful fall foliage.
- Late midseason.
- Drooping pink clusters, 3 feet.
- Midseason to late.
- Full white plumes, 3 feet.
- White, 1 12 feet.
- Slender pink plumes, 23 feet.
- Blood red flowers, bronzy foliage, 112212 feet.
- Midseason to late.
- Drooping pink clusters, 3312 feet Heat tolerant.
- Light salmon-pink, 2 feet.
- Bright red, 212 feet.
- Deep pink, 2212 feet.
- ('Weisse Gloria').
- Early to midseason.
- Creamy white, 2 feet.
- Resembles the Astilbe xarendsii hybrids but generally blooms in late summer, grows taller, and tolerates dryness a little better.
- Varieties and selections include the following:
- Upright-growing dwarf to 15 inches high, with raspberry-pink plumes above bronzy green leaves.
- Blooms a little earlier than other Astilbe chinensis selections.
- Late blooming, with dense, narrow, pink plumes 3 feet tall.
- Pink-flowered 'Finale' grows only 1820 inches tall.
- Dwarf form with low mats of leaves topped by lilac-pink flower clusters that rise 1215 inches high.
- taquetii 'Superba'.
- Bright pinkish purple flowers in spikelike clusters 45 feet tall.
- Purple Candles is deeper purple, slightly shorter.
- Grows to 16 inches., with leaves merely cut or lobed instead of divided into leaflets.
- Known for its selections.
- Summer-blooming 'Sprite', the best known, is a low, compact plant with abundant pink, drooping, 1 feet spires above bronze-tinted foliage.
- Hennie Graafland is similar but grows a few inches taller and blooms somewhat earlier.
- Key Largo bears rasp- berry midsummer flowers at 1 feet high.
- Moulin Rouge has bright magenta flowers on 6 inches stems in midsummer.