Prized for their large and attractive, feathery plumes of flowers accompanied by equally stunning fern-like foliage, astilbe flowers are grown by gardeners to add a pop of color to their precious lawns.
Astilbe refers to a genus of about 20 different species of flowering plants in the Saxifragaceae family. Native to Asia, Far East, and North America, these hardy and rhizomatous plants are a type of herbaceous perennials and are a common sight in various wild areas including woodlands and mountain ravines.
These small to medium-sized plants feature a bushy growth that lacks a wooden stem but can reach heights of up to 6 feet tall. Like most perennials, astilbes generally have a lifespan of at least two to three years.
Astilbes are classified under clade Eudicots, which means that they are closely related to other varieties of feather-like flowers such as Queen’s Anne lace, spirea, and goatsbeard (scientific name, Aruncus dioicus). In fact, some varieties of astilbe are commonly known as false spirea or false goat’s beard owing to the fact that their soft and downy, cone-shaped bunch of flowers somewhat seem like a goat’s beard viewed upside-down.
Some astilbe species are mildly fragrant whereas others feature a strong and pleasant scent that will make your garden feel like a magical land brought to life. Certain types of astilbes, for examples, astilbe rivularis, are also used to extract bioactive compounds for making traditional medicines. These are then used for the treatment of ulcers, skin inflammation, diarrhea, and dysentery as well as for relieving muscle aches.
The large and vibrant blooms of astilbe add heaps of color and bring life wherever they grow. So, whether you are looking for ways to spruce up your garden or trying to make your front yard stand out in the neighborhood, consider planting astilbes for a fine and dazzling look.
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Astilbes are a popular choice amongst both, novice and expert gardeners and for the right reasons too. The fact that they are easy to grow and care for makes them the go-to option for anyone who wants to beautify their garden without having to spend too much time and energy in maintaining it. Moreover, astilbes come in an array of colors ranging from pure white and deep red to various tones of light and dark pink shades. The variety of different colors means that you can choose the one that best suits your preferences.
These types of flowers are well adapted to water-logged conditions and therefore, are commonly used for pond-side planting as well as decorating the area around pools or artificial lakes. Astilbes also make for impressive cut or dried flowers. You can let them dance merrily in the breeze outside or snip a couple of stalks and put them in a vase to add a touch of color indoors as well.
With heights ranging from 6 inches to almost 6 feet, astilbes are a great choice for perennial borders. They provide good ground cover and are ideal for designing a shade garden.
Most of the astilbe varieties bloom during May and June whereas others start flowering in late summer. Smart gardeners take maximum benefit of the majestic display that these flowers put up by growing different types of astilbe together.
Whether you are creating a rock garden, looking for exclusive plants for the shady spots in your backyard or just searching for floral varieties to add a splash of color in your garden, look no further than growing astilbes. Take a look at the different types of astilbe flowers plus lots of other useful information about these attractive blooms that will help you uplift your garden.
Types of Astilbe Flowers
There are almost 25 astilbe varieties with over hundreds of hybrids produced so far (and more still being developed today). The article below the most popular ones cultivated in home gardens as well as found abundantly in natural areas.
The Chinese astilbe is a sub-species of astilbe Chinensis. It is a unique flowering plant that originates from China. Famous for its rather huge and vivid blossoms, this species was first discovered in mid-19th Century by a Russian geographer named Richard Maack.
Chinese astilbe comprises of herbaceous plants with an average height of 18 to 35 inches. These flowers are a common sight in the natural areas of Eastern China, Japan, and Korea. With their showy bloom, they can be easily spotted in open broadleaf forests as well as along rivers and shaded streams.
This species of astilbe is renowned for its plume-like blossoms that transform into striking seed heads by the end of summer.
Blooming from mid to late summer, Maggie Daley is famous for its intense purple plume-shaped clusters that elegantly rise above the green foliage. This late flowering variety is hardy in zones 4 to 9 as it prefers full or partial shade. However, Maggie Daley can thrive equally well when planted in shade gardens. They can grow in most of the soil types regardless of whether it is acidic or alkaline, but the only condition is that the soil must be moist yet well-drained.
Maggie Daley is known to attract butterflies. So, if planting this variety in your backyard, be prepared to welcome the charming flutterers.
Astilbe simplicifolia, commonly known as astilbe sprite, or simply sprite, is a hybrid variety that produces pretty little blooms of coral or shell-pink color.
Although astilbes are generally famous for their large blooms, this dwarf variety was specially engineered for specific purposes. Sprites remain within a height of 2 feet whereas the clusters themselves grow with greater spacing between the plumes. This species is ideal for beds and borders as well as for giving finishing touches around garden ponds and water fountains. You can also plant them in pots and containers and hang them above the patio for a brilliant look.
Astilbe sprite was given the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993 and shortly thereafter, also received the Perennial Plant of the Year award.
Astilbe fanal or fanal is a showy bloomer that is valued for providing garden color all through the summer season. The plant features tall, feathery plumes of rich and deep red color that are further highlighted by the backdrop of lively green foliage. These garnet flowers extend gracefully from slender stalks that are surrounded by thick ferny growth of green and sometimes even bronze colored leaves. Astilbe fanals can be cultivated in hardiness zones 4 to 9 where the soil is evenly moist. Otherwise, they need to be watered frequently in order to grow properly.
The landscape uses for fanals include perennial borders, cottage gardens, ground cover to protect against soil erosion and even edge plantation. With an impressive display of ruby red flowers, fanals are a must-have in Asian or Zen style gardens.
Astilbe bridal veil is an astilbe arendsii hybrid that got its name from the pristine white bunches of delicate flowers that spread stylishly over the dark green leaves, resembling a floral rendition of a bride’s veil.
This type of astilbe blooms excessively during the months of June and July and with the blend of white and green hues, seem to come straight out of a fairyland.
The evenly-spaced branches bearing the feathery clusters make a fine addition whether you are a fan of an all-white garden or want to add some muted tones in your front or back yard for a well-balanced look. To double the beauty of bridal veil, consider planting them with other types of flowers such as Asiatic Lilies, Jasmines or Oriental Lilies.
As is evident by the name, the purple candle astilbe comprises of intense purple blooms that are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8.
These low-lying plants grow an average of 2 to 4 feet tall and produce downy blossoms of mauve, deep amethyst and lavender hues that rise above the lively green ferns with poise. The purple candle is native to China but has found its way well into America and is often seen gracing the fronts yards of various houses all across the country.
Purple astilbe flourishes under bright sunlight but it can also tolerate heavy shade nonetheless. This variety prefers moist and humid conditions and needs to be watered regularly. Otherwise, it is an overall low-maintenance plant although you might have to remove the withered leaves once the flowering season has passed. Most gardeners leave the dried flower stalks intact because the transformation of mature blossoms into seed heads is an amazing phenomenon that provides a spectacular sight.
The foliage of purple candle consists of three sharply-toothed leaflets that grow together to form a compound leaf. For a truly supreme look, plant purple candles in groups to form a magnificent floral bed.
Commonly known as Japanese Astilbe, the peach blossom variety is unlike any other type of astilbe flowers. This hybrid species (astilbe x rosea) is a member of the astilbe japonica family and comprises of deciduous plants that have a pyramidal shape. As the name suggests, this astilbe species produces delicate plumes of peach flowers when it’s bloom time. Featuring soft yellowish-oranges tones with just a hint of pale pink, the peach blossoms provide an ethereal look during late spring and early summer. Its leaves are green and glossy characterized with a few red hues near the edges.
The pastel-colored feathery flowers are no doubt very beautiful, but that’s not all that the gardeners are interested in. Peach astilbes are often grown primarily for the dried seed heads that serve as a unique and distinct garden ornament – the dense clusters are merely an added bonus.
These beauties pair well with other moisture-loving plants such as Lobelia, Hosta, Brunnera and Ligularia.
Irrlicht is an incredible garden plant that consists of lacy greens which eventually turn into bronze foliage when bloom time is over. These garden plants are shade-loving perennials that look a lot like the bridal veil astilbe, but unlike the latter which can grow in wet areas, this species prefers clay soils. Compared to other varieties, this type of astilbe is surprisingly quite drought-resistant and can also tolerate greater exposure to the sun.
Irrlicht, also called Moonlight astilbe, produces soft and feathery bunches of delicate white flowers that contrast sharply against the background of emerald green leaves. These fancy flowers bloom excessively during springtime but if you cut down the foliage before the season ends, the shrubs will put on a second show when autumn arrives.
Astilbes form fantastic mounds color wherever they are planted. If you are mesmerized by these bold beauties, it is highly likely that you can’t wait to grow them in your own backyard. Even though astilbes look gorgeous no matter how they are arranged in a garden or which variety you opt for if you want to make the most of planting these splendors then consider the following gardening tips before proceeding.
- You can plant astilbe seeds, but they take a long time to germinate and are usually short-lived. To get an instant luxe look in your garden, plant astilbe from cut divisions of mature shrubs.
- Astilbes look best when planted in masses. So, plant at least three to five plants sufficiently close together and let them spread naturally.
- If you want a solid ‘block’ of various color, then plant astilbes that produce flowers of different colors but feature the same plant height. Pale pink, purple and white flowers make a unique and fascinating combination so nurture varieties that produce the same.
- If you want to create a stunning 5 feet tall backdrop of green, try planting pumila. When mature, it will form a thick floral wall that will make butterflies and hummingbirds a permanent resident in your backyard.
Pests/ Diseases That Affect Astilbes
Almost all the varieties of astilbe are resistant to deer and rabbits. However, astilbes are susceptible to certain pests and plants diseases that commonly affect home gardens all across the US.
- Powdery mildew– a fungal disease that is widespread in warm and dry climates. It slows down the plant growth and, in most cases, is severe enough to kill the plants altogether.
- Bacterial lead spots– the appearance of dark brown or black spots on the leaves that are caused by the growth of harmful bacteria. Bacterial spots can be easily controlled by spraying fungicides on a weekly basis.
- Tarnished plant bug– a species of plant-feeding insect that is a big nuisance for farmers growing fruits and vegetables. These bugs also prefer feeding on buds and flowers and astilbe happens to be one of those varieties.
If you want to prevent your precious blooms from being affected by these problems, learn how to identify and control common plant diseases in their early stages.
Astilbes are an extraordinary variety of flowering plants that throw long and colorful spikes of feathery blooms over lush green foliage. They bring beauty to shade gardens when little else is in season. Plant them in groups to create a border or grow them in masses for a dense yet lively ground cover.
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