I am planting Astilbe for the first time. Many people I talk to in my area tell me they have not had good luck with them. The web sites say they are easy to grow. Any words of wisdom. Thanks Bob
Hi, Bob. They are easy, but need moisture, lots of it, to thrive. I've grown them in sun and shade but always in a low-lying part of my gardens.
It doesn't take much hot dry summer weather to dry out an astilbe, and once the foliage browns up it won't come back that season. (I've had the plants return the following spring, but not always)
So, if you have a spot that stays reliably moist, they're dead easy to grow. Or if you're diligent about watering, you should be fine as well. Good luck!
Yep, water, water, water! The ones I have that do the best are around one of the bird baths, so they get water every day when I put fresh in it.
I grow astilbe here both in shade and in full sun. I don't do supplemental waterings - they get watered when it rains and they do just fine; bloom well on nice foliage. So, despite our differences in plant care, astilbes are not difficult.
Granted, mine are old and extremely well established. If I were just putting them in, they'd get the appropriate attention until they settled in.
Astilbes are one plant that benefits from mulch to help retain the moisture that they love. I don't water unless we have several weeks without rain, but mine are in at least part shade and have quite organic soil that is mulched.
I agree that they don't like to be dried out...also, they're one of the few plants in my garden that I fertilize. I do it once in the spring and again around mid summer, using a granular (time release) product. NOT MIRACLE GROW.
It all depends on where you are located, what kind of summer weather you have, and what conditions you plant them in. Hot summer in well draining soil which doesn't retain moisture and in full sun = death. Cool maritime summer with half decent soil + mulch and in full sun = thriving Astilbe. Hot summer in shade but bright light and consistently moist soil + mulch = living and possibly thriving Astilbe.
The bigger the plant, the better the chance too. I have never had an Astilbe die but I live along the Atlantic, have amended the soil to become moisture retentive, and I mulch. Over 50% were planted in full sun, some started from seed. Rarely have I watered, but I watch to make sure we get one inch of rain per week if new plants are put in. If they are established plants, not a worry - they can take a bit.
But if you are inland where summers get hot and dry, then you have to be strategic. Shade/dappled shade, moisture retentive soil, mulch, and a hose close by...
Not much I can add to what's already been said except my mature astilbes in part shade/dappled sun, good soil with thick mulch over the top turned to crispy, dry skeletons in last summer's terrible drought. Not a single drop of rain fell from June to October--didn't even have a thunderstorm the whole summer--but I crossed my fingers and set terra cotta plant nannies in the soil close to the base of the plants. I was very happy to see them come up again this year, lush and full and sending up flower spikes. The previous growing season had been an extremely wet one so maybe they were just healthy enough to survive the drought.
Astilbe is one of those perennials that is always disappointing the first year or even two, but from then on they are great. Here they do best in mostly shade to partial sun with regular water. No rain here from May to October is normal so we always must provide summer water. Al
Thanks for all the helpful info. I will try to keep on top of the helpful hints. Thanks again Bob
I appreciate all this great information. I now understand why two of my astilbes have not come back after they missed their waterings (due to a poorly working sprinker head, which is now repaired). The leaves dried up and although the base and stems are green, they are basically bald.
I also live in Northern Nevada where there is zilch in humidity, and summers can get hot around late July and August. Although they are planted in a mostly shaded area, I think mulching will help. I will also add moisture retainers to the soil as well. I love astilbe,so I will give my plants every chance to do well.
Wonder where you are? If "many people" not having success, maybe there is something about the area that makes them more challenging (soil, weather).
To reiterate points above, in my yard, zone 4 upper midwest with hot, windy summers, full shade in very well drained soil they burned more often than not and never thrived.
Mine do best in the shade. All the posts are right, they have to stay moist, especially when young. I've dried out a few of them when they were young and not well established. Since shade lovers are hard to find, they make a perfect choice for my partly shaded spot, along with my columbines and foxgloves, speaking of which, were absolutely gorgeous this year, probably due in part to all the rain.
What do I do when the flowers get dried up?
LizM12 - there's no need to do anything once the flowers have finished. I leave the flowers on mine right through the season. While they aren't especially appealing in looks, I leave them for the birds or other critters that may eat the seeds.
Mine is a low-maintenance garden so if it can be left to its own devices, I do. If I want to grow more plants from seed via winter sowing, I harvest the seed heads and crush them in the fall before sowing them in late winter.
If you can envision this without the violets and weeds and with the hosta, ferns, and heuchera (some of which remain, but aren't visible), the astilbe look great in this bed. Sadly, the Galloping Gardeners have trampled and dug out most of the space in their quest for squirrels and chipmunks. Still, the astilbe persists. Good luck with yours. When they work, they are spectacular.
Once they have finished flowering, I cut the seed heads off to tidy up the plants. I have lots of other seeds for the birds to eat, and since my astilbes are up near the house in mostly shade, the birds don't tend to go there anyway. I find them extremely easy to grow, as long as they don't dry out. To flower well, astilbes need to be divided every so often, and replanted in enriched soil. The roots tend to get crowded over time, and flowering may decrease. I don't fertilize mine, but they would probably flower better if I did.
They also love fallen leaves keeps soil cool and moist. Happy worms giving nutrients to plants and airy soil The beauty awaits.
I love them.