Astilbe Issues

daniellalellJuly 6, 2007

Can anyone tell me why my astilbe are growing wider and not taller? They stay so close to the ground. I had them in a shady area and thought maybe that had something to do with their stunted growth, so I recently moved them to a sunnier location, and I gave them a shot of miracle grow after the transplant. They just got fuller, not taller..they are SO short! 2 have bloomed already, and the other is still so small and has never bloomed, I am thinking maybe cuz it was in teh shade. All the ones i see when i am shopping are nice and tall with big flowers. mine are 3 years old..i think they suffer from dwarfism, lol.

One more do you get more than one pic in your post? I see people put their pics up from photobucket and you dont have to use a link..what code do they use for that?




in case the others dont work..

yes i have no clue how to get these pics up!! lol

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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Some astilbe are short....and some are taller. You likely have some of the shorter variety.
Also if you just moved them this year, likely they are still in shock.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 12:09PM
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According to the tags they are supposed to get up to 2' high. yest my tallest is a whopping 8" lol. The types I have are: 'Avalanche', 'Bumalda', And 'Visions In Pink". I don't think they are in shock anymore, they are looking healthy and bright, except for a few leaves on the smallest plant which were tehre before the transplant..all newer leaves are are my pics..

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 1:56PM
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tjsangel(z5 OH)


How old are your Astilbes? Mine got to a good size after about three years, they really took off. They appreciate lots of organic matter, compost, fertilizer and water. It may just take time.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 9:36PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

They are dry....and still suffering from shock.
When you dig up a plant and replant it, it just sits for a may not be droopy but it's not settled in...really!!
And lilys and astilbe don't make good campanions. The astilbe need a lot more water than the lily likes.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 9:46PM
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yes I just made that bed about a month ago..maybe a lil more, and had the lilies there first..after i transplanted the astilbe there, I realized what i did. I plan on moving the lilies.
I know they arent settled in yet..but they look a hell of a lot better than when they were in the shade. I just want them to grow up as well as out. This is their 3rd year.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 10:18PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

No...not their 3rd transplanting them you set them now they will have to recover to make it their 2nd year.
It is possible to move a plant and take a big enough root ball so there is no transplant shock....but you really have to take a hunk of soil.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 12:19AM
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when i moved them, i dug up about a 9 or 10 inch diameter, and about the same depth, and moved the whole thing to the new think that was big enuf? i thought maybe i was overdoing it, but didnt wanna take any you've got me nervous maybe it wasnt big enuf lol. The two that have always flowered did flower after the transplant, and flowered better than ever, but the one that has never flowered still shows no signs of doing so. :(

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 9:23AM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

I think you took plenty of soil and transplanted them well enough - especially since as you say two of them bloomed better than ever. So don't worry! Also it is not uncommon to have one plant in a grouping not do as well as another. It may have had an early problem, an animal chewing on it or digging it up, etc. etc.

Your plants do seem tiny to me for plants that would be starting their third season. I know there are some small varieties, but I think you would know if you bought one, since they aren't as commonly found as the many larger varieties.

One thing that you don't mention in your posting is whether the shade you have is dry shade or damp shade, or if the soil is rich or thin. My experience has been that Astilbes do well for me in both shade and sun as long as the soil is wet enough. Astilbes are also heavy feeders and like rich soil.

Shortly after I moved into my current home I planted 3 groups of 3 different astilbes in the upper part of the garden in a part shade area with some poor fill soil. Since my mostly low-lying garden is naturally heavy clay and retains moisture very well, I never gave it a thought, just added a bit of compost and pretty much ignored the watering issue as usual. Big mistake! The astilbes lived, never showed any sign of wilt or leaf burn, but stayed small as yours are doing. When I finally realized what I had done, I moved them to various spots in the regular garden and they grew big and lush almost overnight. Good luck with yours.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 9:50AM
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before i moved them, they were in a dry shady area..really crappy dirt actually, lol. in spring of 04 is when i tried to make that soil nice, cuz when i first moved in in 10-03 absolutley nothing was growing there, not even weeds, lol. I took alotta stuff outta that ground, including a giant chunk of cement..I added stuff in, honestly i dont remember what. I have had catmint in that area since the beginning with the astilbe and the catmint does awesome. also have had columbine there, but that doesnt get big there either. I think the astilbe are much happier where they are now. I just put in heuchera, (which i need more of), hostas, lilyturf in the astilbes previous home..i hope they do ok. I also was desperate for a fern and couldnt find any, so I bought a houseplant one I got on the clearance rack at home depot and stuck it in the ground..for $6 and change its worth the experiment to see what will happen to it there. I also have wisteria there, I wanted to grow up the telephone pole (dont ask lol) but it doesnt wanna climb! heres my area..

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 11:23AM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

Your garden looks very nice. You've done a great job! I especially like the blue hostas with the liriope for its nice color and texture contrast.

Hostas are actually quite drought tolerant once they are established. Just make sure to add supplemental water this season to get them started.

You might also consider using a soaker hose in your shade bed. It sort of depends on where your outside water faucet is located. If you add a splitter to the faucet you can leave the soaker hose attached to the faucet and just switch it on a couple times a week for a few hours.

You might also consider adding one or more of the warm-toned amber or peach heucheras to play off your darker ones & against the blue of the hostas. Caramel is my favorite, a very good grower with nice color.

As for the fern, it looks good where you have it planted, but I can't tell what kind it is so I can't help there. Maybe you'll be lucky and it will be winter hardy. A fern I like real well is Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina). It's a crisp green fern of moderate size & spread, and also fairly graceful. It's pretty widely available here in spring.

One more thing I would do for your bed is to add an organic mulch (2-3 inches) to the bed now and annually in the spring until the bed fills in for you. It will keep down weeds & the mulch will break down fairly quickly and help enrich the soil.

Another thing you can do for the plants in this bed is to add a nice thick layer of chopped leaves in the fall. In my climate the leaf layer will still be there in early spring but disappear quickly once there is a bit of warmth in the soil. Hostas & woodland type plants love this stuff.

To improve/replenish soil in existing beds I also like to periodically use a thin layer of "Humus and Manure" (available as a combo in large bags at local nurseries here) to topdress beds in spring (before putting down mulch).

You might find that if you improve the soil in this bed, that the catmint won't like it. They are thin soil lovers which is an additional reason (to the wet/dry issue) why it did well here when your astilbes did not. Catmint also likes quite a bit of sun. BTW, I have a nice patch of self-seeded Lamb's Ear in very dense dark dark, but dry shade. The LE obviously traded its need for sun for the pleasure of being very dry in my usually wet yard. I would never have thought of planting it there. It's that sort of thing that makes gardening so interesting. LOL

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 12:55PM
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Leslie, thank you so much..every fall we do chop the leaves and i put them in my flower beds, and here too, when spring comes they disapear quickly.
The heucheras, well, for some reason the only ones i have found so far was the 'melting fire' ones you see in the pic. I would love to get more of dif kinds..just havent seen them around here.
The catmint section of that bed is the only place where the sun shines for about 2 hours straight in the late afternoon. The rest is dappled except where the fern is..that only gets sun in the spring, otherwise its all shade. I just realized you cant see my large catmint in these pics, only the one I cut down, the rains beat them badly so I cut one back, scared to do both ..just in case,'s now coming up nicely. I've never cut them back before. Also the columbines in the pic are quite small for the same reason, they were done flowering so I cut them back as well.
I have desided that I am definately going to put mulch down. Do you think that if I leave about 6" around the catmint with no mulch they will be ok? I really like them there and dont want to move them.
I love lamb's ear..yet for some reason I dont have any.
Do you know much about dead nettle? I have 'white nancy' Does it spread? I just bought and planted that Friday, it's just getting flowers.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 9:16PM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

I have cedar mulch around my catmints even in my wet yard. I do, however, try to place them in drier spots in the garden. If they get too wet the bottom leaves start to yellow, otherwise I don't worry much about them. I've had pretty good luck with them and other taprooted "dry" plants. I often use gravel as mulch around these kind of plants, but the catmint don't seem to need that. So I think you're safe and as I said - they'll tell you if they are unhappy.

As for Lamium White Nancy, I have one patch about 10 ft by 2 ft long of it on the east side of the house. I think I started with a few plants maybe 8-10 years ago. They are especially pretty around blue-green hostas. I should warn you that I planted them around an extension of the kitchen which stuck out further than the rest of the planting area. They promptly died out at the front (north) end of this area and have steadily (but slowly) moved around the jutout to the southern end of this east facing bed. I do not know whether they were unhappy where they were originally planted because it was too dry or because it was too shady.

Hosta Touch of Class & Lamium White Nancy with asiatic lilies and Monkshood Spark's Variety (just starting) on May 23, 2007.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 3:23PM
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tjsangel(z5 OH)

That is a stunning combination Leslie! Your photos always amaze me, such gorgeous plants. I have a rose called 'Touch of Class', think I need that Hosta too : )


    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 4:19PM
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My experiance with astilbes has been they do neeed sun, even a little. I have always put mine in a Noth facing bed, they get a little sun in the morning but after that it is all shade. . . except for now, mine are in a north facing bed but it gets a lot of the late afternoon sun (west and hot). Last year they were in mostly shade, same bed but I had an A/C unit there to make shade, this year it got moved and there is more sun. . . too much, I have to move them.

My hosta, lamium and impatience are all suffering, the only thing helping them is the outdoor faucet is there and it leaks so the ground is always wet.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 10:48PM
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I realize that It is late in the year, however maybe my information can be useful for next year. I planted astilbe two years ago and divided them this spring. Each tiny division piece is about an 8 inch diameter. Mysoil is nothing but clay. I only amend my soil with mulch, time releasted fertilizer, and cow manure: a whole lot of cow manure! I water my flowers daily and there they grow quickly, thick, and tall. I had pink flowers up to September from all of the continuous new growth. After looking at your pictures, Yous astilbes needed water and some organic mater would help.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 2:33PM
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