Astilbe for Shade

Astilbe for Shade
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Astilbe for ShadeAstilbe, also known as false spirea or meadowsweet, is a favorite shade tolerant perennial. It has feathery blooms that seem to glow within a shady area. It adds a magical element to an area that is usually predominately foliage.

It's a little finicky, though if you can meet its needs, you will always grow it in your garden for the color, texture and its uses.

Astilbe does best in a lightly shaded or partially shaded area where it's moist but not soggy. It isn't a drought tolerant plant and will lose foliage and brown if it isn't watered enough. You may have to baby it, if you don't have enough rainfall.

They don't do well in hot afternoon sun, but a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade really works well. On the other hand, the roots shouldn't sit in soggy soil either.

You can see why it wouldn't do well in some locations. The soil should be rich, and benefits from the addition of compost. Plant in the spring or fall, and be sure to fertilize well throughout the season, and water when needed. Divide every 3-4 years for the best growth. Cut them back in the spring, rather than fall, and the dead foliage will help protect the plant during the winter.

Astilbes range in height from less than foot tall to about four feet, depending on the variety. They are fairly long flowering at two to three weeks. If you plan well, you can have them in bloom from June to August, and they'll even help attract the hummingbirds to your garden.

Astilbe blooms can be used as cut flowers or dried as everlastings. For cut flowers harvest when over half of the blooms on the stem have opened, not before. If you wish to dry your astilbe blooms, wait until all but a very few buds are unopened at the top, but the others have opened. Dry upright in buckets or vases without water.

Astilbes can be planted with ferns, irises, hostas and Lady's Mantle for a interesting and pretty shade grouping.

Reader's Question

When the plumes die off astilbe, do you leave them on the plant till spring, or trim the dead plumes off when they are thru flowering? Then in the spring, do you cut the whole plant to the ground? ~Ginny

After the first bloom you can cut just the flowers off and this will encourage them to bloom again. Many people recommend leaving the blooms to go to seed for the birds in the winter. I think you could do this with the second blooms, and cut the first bloom. They make a neat looking winter landscape plant too with the seed heads left on. Any dead foliage can be cut in the spring.



About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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