Astilbes "magically" revived?

empressjenf(6b PA)August 12, 2012

Back in early May I planted two Astilbe plants right outside my living room window where there is mostly shade. The area almost becomes a pond during downpours because of the neighbor's rain gutter (I live in a townhouse/apartment complex) and the ground is uneven. My Astilbes were growing rapidly and looked great, one flowering before the other.

Not long after the second one flowered both plants started turning brown. At first I thought just the smaller one was dying, possibly because of a spider web covering part of it, but then the larger one started turning brown. They had been getting water from frequent rains and they are in shade most of the day. During the very hot weather earlier this summer I watered them a few times so they wouldn't dry out, but I stopped when they started to turn brown. I was extremely disappointed when they shriveled up and seemed to have died but held out hope they would grow back next spring.

A few weeks after my Astilbes appeared to be dead I noticed green growing among the brown leaves and stems. I just figured it was weeds taking over that area, but after they got bigger I realized the leaves look exactly like the leaves of my Astilbes. Apparently both are growing back already and are looking great, the smaller one now being the larger one. I was going to dig a trench to divert excess rain water away from that area, but now that the Astilbes have come back (and the Begonias are enjoying that area as is) I am hesitant to change anything in that corner. Has anyone had Astilbes do this to them? I am glad they seem to be growing back, but also a bit confused about the whole ordeal. I have never had a plant look so dead and yet come back from entirely new growth within the same season.


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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

During the very hot weather earlier this summer I watered them a few times so they wouldn't dry out, but I stopped when they started to turn brown.

==>> its really hard.. in hindsight.. to determine when an injury occurs.. rather than when it 'shows up' ...

i find it significant.. that when you stopped watering.. they seemed to recover ... regardless of the fact that they browned about the same time ...

do you.. in any sense.. insert your finger.. and water when they need it.. or were you just hosing them down all the time.. perhaps drowning them in the process along with ambient rain ....

my GUESS ... would be some interruption the the roots ability to pump requisite water ... and your decision to ignore them ... saved them.. in time ...

i often say ... on various posts.. that peeps are on the verge of loving a plant to death ... perhaps you were too.. and saved it thru abject neglect [the latter being my preferred option. lol]

the garden is a mystery ... i am glad you have watched a mystery as such ...


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 8:18AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I've lost my astibles during real hot dry weather and had them return when the rains come. It looks like magic but its just dormancy.

One of my magnolias turned brown and lost all it leaves last month. Then we got some rain and cooler temps and within a few days I had blooms and new leaves. That seemed like magic, but same thing as the astilbe.... But I suspect the astibles will recover a lot quicker than my magnolia.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 11:56AM
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empressjenf(6b PA)

I had watered them occasionally when I was watering a struggling rhododendron my father gave me. For the rhododendron I checked the soil, but not for the Astilbes. I don't like to water since I'm always afraid of overwatering, plus I have to fill, refill, and lug around a watering can (rental complex, so no spigot, though some units do have them). The rhododendron is rather large and dried out easily during the hot weather, so many times I only watered that.

kato: I think you are right. They really wilted and then browned during the heatwave. This is the first time I planted Astilbes and I have never had a plant do this before. Now I just hope they survive the winter.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 12:49PM
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MollyDog(6 PA)

Kato is correct in saying astilbes will go dormant when not watered enough and leaf out again when ideal conditions return. In some cases, the plant may remain dormant until the next spring.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 5:47PM
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I have never experienced astilbe leafing out again after drying out. The rule here has always been: once brown- stays this way to the end of the season.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 9:36PM
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Karolina11(6b Central PA)

I am in the same zone you are and a bunch of my astilbes also turned completely brown in the heatwave we had this summer and are all sending out new leaves now. The few I had from last year didn't turn brown but the few I had planted this year all did so I am assuming it has to do with the heat and not having an adequate root system yet.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:35AM
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empressjenf(6b PA)

Well I feel much better knowing others have had this happen. I was happy to see them come back, but afraid there would be some permanent damage because of this. Honestly, I can't blame them for going dormant. Even I mostly stayed in my air conditioned room as much as possible during the heat wave. So glad its over, and hopefully we won't get another one again this summer.

I wish I would have discovered Astilbes years ago. I don't think the local greenhouse where I lived had any - they had mostly sun plants. It was a small business (couldn't even accept credit cards) and they had very healthy plants, but I live about an hour away now. The main plant I focused on trying to get was a hydrangea, and I was eventually given one...about 8 months before I knew I was moving. I transplanted it to my dad's house and hoped for the best. It is now gone. Dad said it must have died, except his girlfriend has a pond there now and she is the type to throw away things because they are/were mine (which is why I don't visit my dad more often). I've got a Nikko Blue now, but its so tiny it will be awhile before I see flowers (with my luck, it will probably be right before I move again). The Astilbes were the first plants I planted in my current garden. I think next spring I'll add a couple more.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:35PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

We routinely cut back the astilbes after they brown out, and they almost always put out new growth.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 1:06PM
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I have had the same experience recently as most of you. My two year old astilbes got really leafy and bloomed quite nice. They are the variety "Deutschland" and they still have their leaves now and July is growing to a close.. The new ones I put in this year in different spots were happy and growing and without a blemish in the spring. Then the 90â¢F+ days started and all the new ones turned brown and the leaves "died" completely. I am confident that they are just dormant though. They seem to dislike the heat.
The new ones are Ostrich Plumes in a corner of the yard and "Red Sentinel" around a crepe myrtle tree. They will be back. Just gathering their strength.
Also, Just a fun fact regarding plants: Unless the foliage is diseased you want to leave the leaves that are turning brown on plants. They do a process called apoptosis where they break down the old cells and use the raw materials to build new things such as roots below the soil or new leaves. So leaves that aren't completely crunchy yet are usually being taken apart and the building blocks getting used elsewhere.

~ Happy Gardening ;)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 2:21PM
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empressjenf(6b PA)

So far this year we haven't had much heat and we've had plenty of rain, so my Astilbes look great. They only died back the first year (2 years ago) during the heat wave. I don't remember if we had a heat wave last year, but they didn't die back then. I wish the flowers lasted longer, but they are nice for that short period of time. My Visions in Red has an awesome color and makes my neighbor a bit jealous.

I had moved my Astilbes in the spring and under estimated how big they would grow, so next spring I will move them again. One is bigger than the other and growing over my new garden path. I haven't decided yet if I want to divide them -- they are still young and not too big yet. Plus I am running out of room for new plants because of my love for hydrangeas.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:16PM
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Mine did this during hot spells each year for the first two or three years I had them, but now that they are well established, they don't do it anymore (as long as I keep them watered).

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 10:46AM
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