Astilbe. This perennial deserves its own “How To“ manual if only to cover the large variety of colors, heights and blooming periods. With strategic planning, an assortment of different varieties of Astilbe will perform all summer long. All they need is light shade or filtered sun and moist soil.
The key to success is to focus first on blooming time. Astilbes such as Deutschland [white] 24 inches tall, Peach Blossom [salmon] 20 inches tall and Reinland [pink] 24 inches tall, all bloom in early summer.
Astilbes that bloom in midsummer include Arendsi Amethyst, growing to 40 inches in height, Fanal [carmine red] to 24 inches and Jump and Jive [magenta] to 20 inches.
Late blooming Astilbes include chinensis Superba [purple] at 36 inches tall, Diament [white] at 32 inches and Visions [pink] at 16 inches. Included in this late group is my favorite, Astilbe thunbergia, Ostrich Plume [claret red] at 36 inches tall. The floppiness of its flower spikes adds visual interest to the flower bed.
Blooming even later is chinensis Pumila [mauve pink] that grows to 12 inches.
All of the Astilbes mentioned here represent only a fraction of choices available to the diligent gardener. Unlike any of the other easy care perennials that are mentioned on this blog, Astilbes require a bit more attention. Organic matter should be added to the soil every season to ensure nutrition and moisture preservation. And, every three years, they need to be dug up and divided to maintain their vigor.
Landscape architects plant Astilbes in sinewy drifts in shade gardens. Spectacular results can also be achieved by combing them with other shade perennials as their color palettes makes them versatile companions. Astilbe flowers are soft plumes and the deep green foliage is fernlike and glossy. This perennial adds attractive texture to the shade garden even when not in bloom. Spent plumes may be lefy uncut during winter for visual appeal. This plant is suitable for zones 4 to 8.