The astilbe perennial plant is an easy-to-grow, shade-loving plant. The flower plumes add color and height to shady rock gardens, containers and borders. Astilbes are good accents with the green foliage of hosta and ferns and are known to attract butterflies. Deer ignore this plant, which makes it a nice addition to rural areas.
The astilbe plant is a flowering perennial that is also called false spirea, feather flower or false goat's beard. Astilbe is from the Saxifragaceae family and is native to North America and Asia. It will grow to a height of 24 to 36 inches. A dwarf variety is available that grows only 6 inches tall. The astilbe plumes bloom from June to July.
Types and Colors
Astilbe plants are available that bloom in red, pink, white, peach and purple. They are classified in six types, each with its own distinctive traits. They are Arendsii, Chinensis, Crispa, Simplicifolia, Japonica and Thunbergii. Each type has leaf and flower plumes that vary in color, size and shape.
How to Grow
The astilbe plant is easy to grow and is compatible with growing zones 3 through 9. It prefers partial to full shade. A couple of hours of morning sun may be all right, but afternoon sun is too intense. Astilbe needs soil that drains well; add additional peat or humus if needed. Fertilize and mulch the plants for best growth. Mulch helps keep weeds down and retain moisture. Plants should be set at least 15 to 25 inches apart and planted in spring or fall. The plants will winter well, but in colder zones, give them extra mulch for insulation.
Insects and Diseases
The astilbe plant is hardy with few insect and disease problems. Crown rot may occur in plants that are over-watered or planted in soggy soil. It is possible to treat an early diagnosis of crown rot with a fungicide, but most cases of the disease will kill the plant. In case aphids, whiteflies or spider mites appear, dust the plants with an organic insect repellent.
Separation and Moving
Astilbe plants should be separated every three to four years for best results. Dig the plant out of the ground in early spring or fall, keeping the roots as intact as possible. Cut the plant into two or three sections with a sharp knife by slicing through the root ball, and then transplant them. Do not attempt to separate plants during the growing season.