Northern Shade Gardening

Soft Astilbe Plumes

Thursday, July 30, 2009 Category: Perennials

Some soft plumes waving above finely cut foliage are just what the shade garden needs after many of the other plants have quieted down. The eye-catching Astilbe are blooming, and enliven this area of the garden. These are hardy perennials that take a fair amount of shade, but enjoy a good amount of moisture too. Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ and Astilbe ‘Europa’ bloom at the same time in white and pink.

Astilbe arendsii 'Diamant' many plumes

Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ many plumes

These are the white flowers of Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ (Diamond astilbe). The flower plumes are a bright white, giving off a nice glow in the shade. ‘Diamant’ is about 75  cm (30 inches) tall, a little taller than my Astilbe ‘Europa’ that you can see as shorter pink plumes in the background and to the side.

Astilbe arendsii 'Diamant' new buds

Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ new buds

Here are the flowers of Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ just as they start to open. The top buds are still green. The bottom of the plume opens first, and then gradually the whole flower stem opens to a feathery plume.

Astilbe arendsii 'Diamant' fluffy flowers

Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ fluffy flowers

These are the flowers of ‘Diamant’ as they are halfway open, with the bottom half fluffy, the top buds still to open. I especially like these in front of a green backdrop of foliage.

Astilbe 'Europa' pink fluffy flowers

Astilbe ‘Europa’ pink fluffy flowers

The soft pink of Astilbe ‘Europa’ is one of my favourite Astilbe colours. It blends beautifully with many other soft colours. They look especially nice next to the white  ‘Diamant’. ‘Europa’ is  about 45 cm (18  inches) tall. The feathery flowers of this perennial look light and airy in the shade garden.

Astilbe 'Europa' buds just opening

Astilbe ‘Europa’ buds just opening

In the above photo, the bottom of the ‘Europa’ flower plumes are just beginning to open, and show a little pink.

Astilbe 'Europa' pink flowers

Astilbe ‘Europa’ pink flowers

Growing the Astilbe in medium shade with some mulch cover helps theses plants conserve moisture, so they don’t end up with browning foliage. They might have a few less flowers in medium shade, but the foliage stays healthy. With our cooler summers the foliage lasts right into the fall.

Astilbe 'Europa' pink flower closeup

Astilbe ‘Europa’ pink flower closeup

This picture show shows how frothy the ‘Europa’ plumes are. The Astilbe flowers may only last for three weeks, but they bring a delightful lightness to the shade when they open. After they fade and turn brown, I leave the flower heads of this perennial on for the winter. They are one of the more decorative looking plants, until spring comes again.

Both of these Astilbe are wonderful additions to the shade garden, with their frothy blooms and light colours. My Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Hennie Graafland’ are still at the bud stage, and will show their pink blooms in a few weeks. You can see more photos of Astilbe and their companion plants.

Do you have a favourite Astilbe?

18 Responses to “Soft Astilbe Plumes” »

  1. Lona :
    July 30, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I just love Astilbe. It is sticking in all over my shady beds. My beds would be very drab without them.

  2. Northern Shade :
    July 30, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Lona, astilbes do animate the shade garden, and make such a good contrast next to plants with large or solid leaves.

  3. Joy :
    July 31, 2009 at 5:17 am

    NS : ) This is a beauty ! .. I do have a weakness for Astilbe ..
    “Peach” was a favorite of mine .. reds such as in “Montgomery” were earlier in my getting to know them .. then white such as what you have show cased .. especially in the medium shade where it really glows : ) .. I leave the flower heads on because even as they lose their colour there is a certain attraction to them along with the foliage .. they are wonderful all purpose shade plants : )
    Any spelling errors I will blame on my husbands computer and the early morning commenting ? wink wink
    Joy

  4. MNGarden :
    July 31, 2009 at 6:45 am

    I added astilbe to my garden once but was not successful at getting them established but I am going to try again because they are so beautiful.
    Donna

  5. Northern Shade :
    July 31, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Joy, there is a great selection in astilbe colours. Like you, I enjoy the faded blooms, especially later on when everything has quieted down. The faded flowers look good in the fall garden, and add interest after that as plants get covered up.

    Donna, if your summer is hot and dry, the astilbe would probably appreciate a shady location even more, as well as some mulch to conserve the moisture.

  6. kerri :
    July 31, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Astilbe is such a wonderful shade plant, and I wouldn’t be without those lovely soft, feathery plumes. They do look especially good with a green foliage backdrop, and pair very nicely with hostas. My white blooms have faded already, but the pink is still going.
    Joy and I recently discovered that we both have the pink Ostrich Plume. In fact she named it for me when I posted a picture. My Astilbe have been in the garden for a long time…since before I kept track of the names of things I planted.
    We’re having yet another rainy day here. I wonder if you are too. However, the weatherman is promising warmth and sunshine for tomorrow, so I have that to look forward to :)

  7. Northern Shade :
    July 31, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Kerri, it’s handy that there are early, medium and late flowering versions to spread the bloom time out. I will have to double check your pink Ostrich Plume, a very apt name for an extravagant flower.

    We have been having wonderful days, with just the right temperature for gardening.

  8. Anonymous :
    October 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    why don’t my astilbe blossom?

  9. Northern Shade :
    October 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Hi # 8, do your astilbe have enough moisture, or are the leaves browning? The hotter and dryer your climate, the more shade they would appreciate. I find they bloom even in fairly deep shade for me, but maybe not as many flowers as in part shade. They like a little additional organic matter to enrich the soil, but they should still bloom.

  10. Anonymous :
    September 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    I have “Visions in Red” and “Ellie”.

  11. Northern Shade :
    September 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    One new one that I tried this summer is Astilbe ‘Younique White’. The flowers were long lasting and they were especially thick, but being new it had a head start in a grower’s greenhouse under ideal conditions. Next summer I’ll see how it does naturally in the shade under the trees.

  12. jacquie :
    August 21, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Hi, hope you can help me. I have recently planted some beautifully colourful plants, however they have all lost their vibrant colour. I have 2 Astilbes 1 white and 1 purple, they have turned a shade of brown, their leaves are lovely and green and look very healthy. I have also planted Salvia (East Friesland) which was a lovely purple, this is also starting to go a discoloured brown, the leaves like the others look a very healthy green.
    I have never planted flowers before and have no idea what to do, I have checked the labels which I kept, but they have no real info except for the planting and pruning.

  13. Northern Shade :
    August 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Jacquie, Astilbe flowers usually only keep their vibrant colours for around 3 weeks or so, and then fade to brown, producing new flowers the next year. You cam extend the season by planting a mix of early and late flowering types of astilbe, so the group blooms for a longer period of time over the summer. For example, my Astilbe Younique flower earlier than the others, and the Astilbe ‘Europa’ and ‘David’ bloom next, ending with ‘Hennie Graafland’.

    Many perennials don’t bloom for the whole summer, but you can plant other perennials in the garden bed that flower very early, then mid season and then late. I plant some early spring bulbs among the perennials that start blooming first, and then as they fade, the early flowering perennials like Helleborus. Brunnera, Pulmonaria, and bleeding hearts flower next, followed by the iris, tiarella and peonies. About mid summer many of my bellflowers are in bloom, and they often flower right up until fall, as do the Dianthus (pinks). In late summer the phlox are putting on great displays and the Hydrangea shrubs are full of flowers.

    You can also include perennials that have suburb leaf colours, like Brunnera, Heuchera and Tiarella, so even when they aren’t in bloom, the garden is still colourful and interesting. Putting different sizes of leaves next to each other looks attractive, too, like planting large leafed Hosta next to feathery ferns (or Astilbe).

    I also include some long flowering annuals, such as Lobelia, as an edging in some garden beds, so they give constant colour as the perennials each take their turn.

    I love perennials that bloom for a long time, such as many of the Campanula (bellflowers), but I also enjoy anticipating how the garden changes as new perennials come in to bloom, like the Astilbe.

    Good luck with your garden. It’s fun to plant new flowers and watch them bloom, enjoying their colours and scent. Then you get ideas for how other flower colours would look good with them, and which other plants you want to bloom before and after them, to get a beautiful tapestry that’s pleasing to you.

  14. jacquie :
    August 24, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Thanks for the info, at least I know it not me…lol

  15. Northern Shade :
    August 24, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Jacquie, you’re welcome.

  16. Anonymous :
    August 26, 2013 at 7:53 am

    I have had Astilbes for years and absolutely love them – so faithful for flowering and so easy to care for – until this year! One of the Astilbes was bombarded with greenfly and really suffered – very few plumes and none flowered. The greenfly have never ever bothered with the Astilbes before so I was really surprised. However my bigger problem is that while all my other Astibles which were not touched by the greenfly thrived and produced the usual abundant plumes, not one of the plumes went on to flower!! I have just examind them all again there now – fine healthy plumes, leaves etc but not a sign of any of the plumes flowering – I presume they are not going to flower at all now at this stage of the year. Has anyone ever come across this before?

  17. Northern Shade :
    August 27, 2013 at 8:37 am

    #16, I’m not sure, as I haven’t seen Astilbe plumes not open once they have formed. Sometimes mine will get fewer flowers in deeper shade, or if it is dry. Did the plants dry out?

  18. Anonymous :
    August 27, 2013 at 9:05 am

    No and the really weird thing is that the Astilbes I have – maybe 10 or so are of varying ages and types from maybe 8 or 9 years old down to 3 years old – all planted over the years – and everyone of them from the youngest to the eldest have turned out the same this year – nurmerous plumes and none of them went onto flower – it really has me puzzled!

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