Landscape Spotlight: Astilbe

Posted June 28, 2018 in Plant and Tree

Adds showy color to the landscape?  Check.  Thrives in shade?  Check.  Blooms lasting all season?  Check!  This Asian native perennial dazzles in the landscape, providing not just beautiful color but vertical and textural interest as well!

Sometimes referred to as false spirea, this landscape spotlight plant is one of our favorites.  It’s long-blooming and plume-like flowers upon its sturdy stalks, come in a gorgeous array of colors.  From white, soft shades of pink, purple, yellow and orange to vibrant red and magenta; there is definitely a variety out there to suit your scheme!  Known to be hardy in zones 4-9 (find your zone here) and as one of the most low-maintenance perennials to include in your garden, astilbe virtually pest-free and long-lasting.

First blooms arrive around late spring and seem to persist for weeks.  The illusion of its longevity is due to the fact that each flower plume consists of hundreds of densely packed flowers which open in succession and each variety works on their own clock.  Existing in about 25 species and hundreds of cultivators, their heights can range from 6” to 4’ tall!  You could essentially mix and match several different astilbe in your shade garden and be rewarded with a warm weather non-stop feast for the eyes!

The aesthetic doesn’t end with its flowers, it actually begins with its foliage.  This plant’s leaves are delicate and lacy, almost resembling that of a fern.  Its mounding form gives depth and support to its tall fluffy flowers, but the leaves eventually become the main focus once the flowers do die back for the season.  Closer to the fall, the foliage will transition to yellow to contrast nearby evergreens before dying back to brown.  When the foliage browns, you may clip the spent flower stems and leaves, or you can certainly leave them in tact over the winter.  The hardy flower stalks will remain vertical throughout the cold season, providing winter interest for those who enjoy little peaks through the snow emitting hopes for spring.

These part-to-full shade beauties love rich, well-drained yet evenly moist soil…and I am sure if they could, long walks on the beach at sunset.  While pretty tolerant of most conditions, two of its biggest enemies are dryness and too much sun exposure.  It is essential to keep a regular watering schedule when the temperatures soar and there is no rain in the forecast.  Too much sun will expose the delicate leaves to scorch or burn.

The commonality within and diversity among the cultivators provides vast versatility in the garden when it comes to landscape design.  Astilbe are compact enough for smaller spaces and borders yet are adaptable enough for container gardens and window boxes!  Varieties such as ‘Purple Candles’, ‘Superba’ and ‘Purple Lance’ are among the taller plants that make a stellar impact used as a landscape focal point or as a backdrop to smaller perennials and shrubs.  Shorter astilbe varieties like ‘Sprite’, ‘Cotton Candy’ or ‘Pumila’ are awesome when planted en masse, along borders and act as a welcomed contrast to nearby plants with large and broad leaves like hostas.

Take our word for it, astilbe will not disappoint your landscape, especially when they are happiest in shady spots where not much else likes to live!  For those who live in the Poconos, Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey who are searching for their own landscape inspiration, a backyard reimagination or a total transformation, MasterPLAN Outdoor Living would love to help you uncover the full potential of your property.  Exploring all outdoor living materials, features and options gives our clients the opportunity to create a space they are going to love for many years to come.  From modest makeovers to magnificent retreats, MasterPLAN has the experience, expertise and passion to guide our clients in their outdoor journey.  Creating outdoor living spaces to be cohesive with the home, incorporating both structure and landscape, we know that a timeless outdoor living plan is the first step to living your best life outdoors.  When you are ready, reach out to MasterPLAN to open the conversation, we would love to hear from you!

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