Northern Shade Gardening

Feathery Astilbe

Saturday, July 26, 2008 Category: Perennials

Astilbe arendsii \'Diamont and Astilbe \'Europa\'

More Astilbe plumes are opening in the shade garden now.  The white feathery flowers of Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ (diamond astilbe) glow in the shadows, and the pink flowers of Astilbe simplicifolia “Hennie Graafland’ look like spun cotton candy. Astilbe ‘Europa’ started the bloom show with soft pink flowers.

You could plant these astilbe in a sunnier area to get more flowers, but in the coolness of the shadows, with a little mulch around them, the foliage stays healthy without having to quench their thirst constantly. Also, their ability to reflect light is valuable in the shade.

Astilbe arendsii \'Diamont\' closeupMost of the A. arendsii ‘Diamant’ flower stalks are open now. Their pure white flowers are highly visible from a distance, even at dusk. When I take a look out the window at the garden after sundown, these plumes still reflect the last wisps of light.

Sometimes this plant is marketed as  Astilbe ‘Diamond’. It is my tallest astilbe, about 30 cm (1 foot) taller than the pink flowered Astilbe ‘Europa’.  Diamant starts blooming  a little after Europa, but their flowering times overlap. I wrote more about Europa in a previous post.

After about 3 weeks the flowers gradually turn brown, but they are still interesting. I leave the faded plumes on the plants until next spring.

The leaves are attractive, and look nice combined with the finer textured fronds of ferns, or with broader leaves.

Astilbe simplicifolia \'Hennie Graafland\'

Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Hennie Graafland’ is a medium sized astilbe, about the same height as ‘Europa’. The flowers have darker centres, giving them a brighter, more saturated look than ‘Europa’. The cotton candy plumes on these are just beginning to open from the bottom.  In a few days, they will be as fluffy as the other astilbe. Despite being in a medium shady area, getting maybe an hour of direct sun, this perennial gets a good number of plumes. The flowers in the bottom picture are all on one plant, though there are 2 other Hennie Graafland behind in the clump.

Astilbe simplicifolia \'Hennie Graafland\' glossy foliageThe extra glossy, dark green leaves are what I like most about Hennie Graafland. In the shade garden, the shiny foliage is very showy, and contrasts nicely with more matte textured leaves. Since the plumes bloom bright for about 3 weeks, it looks decorative to have the polished looking foliage for the rest of the season.

I always look forward to the astilbe blooms in the shadows, but their attractive foliage is around until frost. They don’t seem to be bothered by any pests or diseases in my garden. This perennial is an excellent plant for the shade, and hardy in zone 3.

Here is some more information and photos about astilbe in this followup post.

14 Responses to “Feathery Astilbe” »

  1. perennialgardenlover :
    July 26, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Astilbe plumes are so gorgeous in the shade garden. I have a few myself. Mine bloom in April and May. They look fireworks going off when they are in full bloom.

  2. Northern Shade :
    July 26, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Perennialgardenlover, the fireworks are celebrating the quiet coolness of the shade under the trees. Right now, some blue jays are interrupting that quiet by scolding a squirrel, who thinks it’s got a right to some tree time too.

  3. Nancy Bond :
    July 26, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    What gorgeous plumes!

  4. Anonymous :
    July 26, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    So glad that I came across your blog..after reading this post, I will have to add them to my garden as I have woodland property with a perfect spot to place astilbe..great damselfly shot!!

  5. Northern Shade :
    July 26, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Nancy, when I first took the photos, and looked at the tiny thumbnail sized shots on my computer, they looked vaguely out of focus. Then I enlarged them, and discovered it was just the fluffy plumes looking naturally fuzzy. : )

  6. Northern Shade :
    July 26, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Hi # 4, astilbe are fairly easy care perennials, but they will get crispy brown leaf edges if they get too dry. They look lovely under trees.
    I’m glad you like the damselfly shot. It found the perfect petal for its landing.

  7. Ulinne :
    July 27, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Ah ja, Astilben gehören auch zu meinen Lieblings-Stauden. Leider sind sie immer sehr schnell beleidigt, wenn es nicht genügend Wasser gibt …
    Wunderschöne Fotos davon!
    Liebe Grüße
    Ulrike

  8. Northern Shade :
    July 27, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Ulrike, I’ve been fortunate that we’ve had enough rain this month to satisfy the astilbe with almost no extra watering. ‘Diamant’ gets only a little early morning sun, being on the northern side of a fence, and at the outer edges of the some tree branches, so they conserve their moisture. The Hennie Graafland is tucked on the east side of my house next to a fence, so they too get a cool retreat to conserve water. Also, they probably appreciate our summer temperatures. Most days this month have had a high of around 20 C to 25 C (68 F to 77F).

  9. Gail :
    July 27, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Your astilbes are lovely….I tried to grow them when I first gardened here but there is no way I can give them the water they need…and it appears that we are getting less rain each summer! sigh…

    Gail

  10. Northern Shade :
    July 27, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Gail, I can see that you’d have to be very selective in the water requirements of your plants. You seem to have found many plants that flourish in a xeriscape garden.
    You could still tuck an astilbe in next to your rainbarrel. : )

  11. gail :
    April 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Hi,

    My astilbe turn brown quite quickly, sometimes when the buds are starting to
    open. I see from other comments they need lots of water. What kind of
    fertilzer should I be using. Mine are mostly under the oak tree, but I have some in full sun and they always seem to bloom.

  12. Northern Shade :
    April 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Gail, the Astilbe don’t like to dry out, and will get brown and crispy when they do. I grow them in the shade, which cuts down on moisture loss, and mulch around them, to help them conserve water too. They might be more prone to drying out in a hotter climate, depending on where you garden.

  13. kathie :
    June 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I’m not sure which Astilbe I have. My plants are VERY healthy, the flowers are there but don’t seem to bloom out with color. They are well watered but do I need to add something to the soil?

  14. Northern Shade :
    June 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Kathie, when you say that the flowers are there but don’t seem to bloom out with colour, is it that the blooms are a more dingy shade? Astilbe can bloom in different shades of white, cream, pink and red, depending on the variety. Perhaps yours is one of the more beige coloured ones. There are brighter coloured varieties of Astilbe available, if you were looking for brighter flowers. Also, some of the white varieties are more bright, and some are more beige. Astilbe have gorgeous blooms, but unfortunately they don’t bloom for a long period of time in the garden. It might be that yours are done for the season.

    Your Astilbe will appreciate the water you are giving them, as they aren’t fond of drying out. Also, although they are very tolerant of shade, they do get more blooms with more light.

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