How to Grow Astilbe – Perfect for Shade

One of the stars of a shady garden bed is astilbe.  It has a feathery leaf structure and gorgeous flower plumes that sit above the plant majestically. These tips will show you how to grow astilbe and bring color to your shady perennial garden beds.Astilbe is a very popular perennial with fern like foliage and plumes of very showy flowers. It is perfect for a moist, shady garden bed.My mother had a lovely garden set up until she died.  Once she retired and she had time to spend in the garden making them really beautiful. Most of her beds were in full sun but she had a long raised planter along one side of her house that is in part shade most of the day. For this spot she haa chosen to grow astilbe.  And grow well, they did!

I visited her a few years ago and she gave me some shoots to bring back to North Carolina for my garden (she lived in Maine.)  They survived the trip back and are growing well and increasing in size each year.

How to Grow Astilbe.How to Grow Astilbe - Perfect for shade Gardens

Astilbe is easy to grow, and is very tough and hardy.  One of the beauties of them is that they do equally well in part sun or partial shade and will flower in either location. They prefer shade to look best. Astilbe are companions of ferns, and I have them growing in a shady part of my garden flanked by lovely large ferns, hostas and other astilbe companion plants

The prettiest thing about astilbe is their canopy of tall flower stalks about a fern like leaf structure.

Astilbe Straussenfeder

Image Credit American Meadows

Growing astilbe is easy if you follow these tips:

Light:  Astilbe does well in both half sun/half shade or in full shade

Flowers:  The most commonly grown astilbe have flowers that are in the red/pink variety with colors ranging from dusty pink through to vibrant pinks and reds.  Some varieties of astilbe are also pale tan or even white. astilbe pink flower

Size:  Most will grow to about 36″ tall with the flower stalk and about 2 feet wide.  But there are also varieties that will grow to 5 feet so be sure to choose one suited to the space you have.

Bloom time:  Mid to late summer. 

Propagation:  Root divisions.  They take quite easily as is evidenced by mine in their two day car ride in the middle of summer.  Advisable to plant in the spring or fall.  Divide every two to three years.

Watering:  Astilbe likes moist soil so hotter climates will need to have them in shade and you’ll need to add extra water.  They grow best in Northern areas where it is cool and wet.

Fertilizer requirements:  Best to use slow release fertilizer twice a year.

Astilbe Deutschland

Image Credit American Meadows

Soil requirements:  They are not too particular. Astilbe will grow in  soils that are loamy, soils with heavy clay content or even moist and wet soil. An acid soil is desirable. Be sure it drains well.

Hardiness:  Zones 3-9.  They don’t do as well in extreme cold or heat zones. 

Other facts:  Great for cut flowers and deer resistant.

Uses:  Astilbe make great choices for garden beds under a canopy of trees. It also is great when grown as a patio plant in a container on a shady deck or patio.

Astible as a border in Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland.

Image shared from Rampant Scotland.

Border Plants Astilbe are spectacular looking planted as a border edge if you have a bed that gets plenty of shade during the day.

Most of the astilbe plants that I have seen around here in Raleigh, have very feathery flowers but some of the varieties can be quite showy such as this “country and western” astilbe with almost chenille like flowers shows.

Country and Western Astilbe

Image shared from Garden Crossings.

Astilbe is normally planted directly in the soil, but is equally at home in planters.  Be sure to give the roots plenty of room and extra watering will be necessary if you grow them this way.

Astilbe in planters

Image shared from Benary

Have you grown astilbe?  What zone are you in?

The perfect plant for shady spots - Astilbe

Image adapted from one at American Meadows

For more tips on how to grow Astilbe and a look at the color varieties, see my Astilbe Gallery here.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  45 comments for “How to Grow Astilbe – Perfect for Shade

  1. 08/01/2014 at 11:30 am

    Love these plants…have been growing for years. I have divided them but they seem to have lost their bright colors. Any ideas of what I can do? thanks

    • admin
      08/01/2014 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Paula. Some astible varieties start out as one color and fade to white as the plant gets older. They also sometimes fade after they have been pollinated or if they are under stress, such as too much heat. But if yours are older, it may be that it is just their time to fade, since that is a natural part of the plant’s life cycle. Carol

  2. Zel
    01/16/2015 at 11:27 am

    Hi! I found your site through pinterest looking for shade plants! These are lovely, but now that I live in New Orleans, I think they’re out. *Sad* I just wanted to comment because of two things. 1) I love the Gaia avi. Hehe. 2) I grew up in Raleigh so I thought that was neat too!

    • admin
      01/16/2015 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Zel, Yes it is harder to grow astilbe in the hotter regions. I have to very shady areas here so they work pretty well….they don’t get much direct sun at all.

      Carol

  3. Marilyn
    05/05/2015 at 9:50 pm

    Hi, the Astilbe drew my attention. It is so pretty, but I’m gathering it is not an annual. I moved into an apt. with a patio and a small space for growing flowers. I’m trying to think of what to plant. I want something bright, annuals of course. I get part shade, part sun. Last year I put in Impatiens, petunias and mums. Do you have any ideas? Thank you.

    • admin
      05/05/2015 at 10:32 pm

      HI Marilyn. I do actually grow perennials in tubs as well. But when I choose annuals, I normally pick something tall like a dracena to give height to the planter and then fill in with things like begonias, petunias, vinca, ivy, etc. A lot depends on how much shade you get. If it is too much, many of the annuals won’t do very well, but if you have grown pentunias you should be okay with pretty much any annual from the garden centers. Another favorite of mine is caladiums!

      This year, I am going to try and do more perennials in my tubs. I’m kind of tired of having to do them over each year, and my perennials will come back for me in tubs in zone 7b.
      Carol

  4. Rikke
    05/11/2015 at 10:23 pm

    The astilbe are gorgeous. Sadly, the astilbe I’ve planted have failed to thrive. Every year, they come back, but look scraggier and scraggier. I live in zone 4, so I’m wondering if I should move them to a sunnier spot to see how they do. Thanks for a helpful post on what seems like a little appreciated plant in the Midwest!

    • admin
      05/11/2015 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Rikke. You could try. Last year, I planted a slightly shady part of what used to be my vegetable garden. It gets afternoon sun but shade in the morning. It is HUGE this year and so healthy, so they can take some sun as long as it is not all day long. Let me know how you go!
      Carol

  5. Claire
    05/20/2015 at 10:27 am

    These are beautiful! I am getting married on August 29th this year and was thinking about planting this so I can cut some for the wedding (just in little vases here and there… nothing major in case it doesn’t work). When would you suggest planting them? And any idea how long they survive once cut? Thank you so much.

    • admin
      05/20/2015 at 10:43 am

      Hi Claire. I plant Astilbe in the spring, but it takes several years for plants to get the size of these. I’ve never cut the flowers so I am not sure how long they would last in vases. I do put butterfly bush flowers (similar texture and size) in water and they last for several days.

      Carol

      • Trish
        03/24/2017 at 10:18 pm

        Just asking I live in zone 5/6 this is my first year trying the Astilbe.How long before I can start to separate or can I ? Trish

        • Carol
          03/24/2017 at 10:27 pm

          Hi Trish, yes you can divide the plant in the spring or fall. This makes for a healthy plant and encourages good growth. However it is not a good idea to divide before you have grown them for three years. In my experience, they need a few years to flesh out the original plant. If you divide them when they are too young, it will weaken them.

          Carol

  6. Trudy
    05/22/2015 at 4:54 pm

    Love your Astilbes ,( just wish the dear would reed, or maybe it’s the rabbits however I doubt it) . Although I have mine in the ground for about 3 or 4 years, they never bloomed, the little flower heads vanish as soon as they come up. I also live in Raleigh and am
    at wits end
    Trudy

    • admin
      05/22/2015 at 5:22 pm

      shhhhhh on the rabbits. LOL Mine ate my beans right down to the ground the other day. Astilbe is still going strong for the time being. Sorry to hear about your critters!
      Carol

  7. JD
    06/20/2015 at 7:17 pm

    I don’t know what’s wrong with my yard, but every single Astilbe I’ve bought has died : (

    • admin
      06/20/2015 at 7:41 pm

      Hi JD,

      I have had mixed luck with them. Most of mine are in the shade but my best one is in full sun in a south facing garden. It’s a mystery, since they are supposed to love shade. It could be lack of water. They don’t like to be wet but they definitely like more water than some shade plants. Astilbe is prone to a couple of fungal diseases which if left untreated can kill the plant. Powdery mildew one and leaf spot is another fungal disease that affects astilbe. Are you giving it plenty of water? If it is not in full shade, the sun can really amp up the moisture needs for it.

      Carol

  8. Becky
    07/08/2015 at 2:54 pm

    I live in the upstate of SC and have been looking for really nice perennials to grow beside the house, which gets both shade and good sun. These Astilbe look amazing!

    • admin
      07/08/2015 at 4:23 pm

      Hi Becky. I live in NC and have a lovely clump of them growing where they get some good sun too. I adore astilbe. Carol

  9. Darcy
    07/14/2015 at 7:19 am

    Can they grow in charleston in shade if they get constant water .

    • admin
      07/14/2015 at 9:55 am

      Hi Darcy. I live in NC and it gets pretty hot here and I don’t have to water them all the time. In fact, my established ones rarely get additional water. I’m not sure if SC would require extra watering. It depends on whether you get much rain. Here in NC, we get showers later in the afternoon quite often.
      Carol

  10. Mary
    09/16/2015 at 4:49 pm

    I have had Astilbes growing in a shaded garden for many years and have pretty much, unfortunately, ignored them. I just happened on to your How to Grow Perfect Astilbes on Pinterest and it has inspired me to give them some TLC this fall! I think I will dig and divide them and give some or all of them new spaces in which to grow! Thanks for providing incentive that I needed.

    • admin
      09/16/2015 at 5:00 pm

      My pleasure Mary. My mother had them all over her shade gardens and my first ones were divisions from there. I just love the plant. Carol

  11. Olga luciá correa
    12/31/2015 at 6:46 am

    Hermosa planta. Como podria tener semill vi

    • Carol
      12/31/2015 at 12:27 pm

      Hello Olga, I don’t speak Italian but I think you are asking where to buy seeds. I am not sure what companies in the USA will ship to Italy. Carol

  12. Rozella Wolf
    02/05/2016 at 8:41 pm

    I totally disagree that Astilbe’s will grown in the hot afternoon sun.

    • Carol
      02/08/2016 at 9:31 am

      Hi Rozella. I agree with you in normal circumstances. They prefer shade. But I do have one growing in the full sun here in NC and it flowered all summer last year. We will see how it does this year!

  13. Olga luciá correa
    02/13/2016 at 8:25 pm

    Donde conseguir semilla en Colombia

    Graciasa

  14. Cheryl Catherall
    03/10/2016 at 2:24 am

    I am new in growing this plant. Would it be to hot to grow in Waco, Texas. They would be planted on the northeast corner of our home in partial sun in the AM and shade in the afternoon. Is it worth a try?

    • Carol
      03/10/2016 at 10:28 am

      HI Cheryl. I live in NC and have mine planted in garden beds that face north east and they do just fine. The beds get sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Astilbe does better in cooler climates but I still have good success with it here in the summer. Carol

  15. 03/23/2016 at 6:33 pm

    Great timing for running across this post! I bought some Astilbe but haven’t got them planted yet, and didn’t know anything about them. I been wanting some for a while. The package says to plant in full sun, but I have found out that lots of plants that says full sun doesn’t like the Texas sun. I wanted to plant some in the shade up along the fence, but wasn’t sure if they would do very good. Thanks for the tips!

    • Carol
      03/23/2016 at 7:39 pm

      Hi Linda. For SURE in Texas, they will want the sun. I have ONE plant that grows in the sun here in NC, but it suffers later in the summer. Carol

  16. Michelle
    05/07/2016 at 6:06 am

    I live in zone 4 in Kansas. I had three astilbes and one made it after three years and I realized the difference was the water and the partial shade. I have the white astilbe with my hostas and coral bells and it is beautiful every year but it does require extra water or it starts to look dead. The other two plants were in more direct sunlight and did not receive enough water and they completely died. So my advise is extra water and shade!

    • Carol
      05/07/2016 at 9:47 am

      Thanks for adding your experience Michelle. I have had similar results. My astilbe that was growing in full sun tends to suffer as the summer progresses, so I moved it to a shadier spot and it is much happier. Carol

  17. Becky
    05/11/2016 at 11:33 am

    This is going to be my first year to try growing astilbes in my shade garden. Wish me luck because they are so beautiful. I like all of your comments and recommendations.

    • Carol
      05/11/2016 at 1:03 pm

      Best of luck with them Becky. I’d love to see some photos when they flower!

  18. Linda Mann
    07/01/2016 at 8:40 pm

    I love these flowers. Mine bloom but not all summer. Have them in the shade with bleeding hearts. They seem to be crowded could this be the reason they didn’t continue to bloom? When do I want to thin both plants out?

    • Carol
      07/01/2016 at 9:51 pm

      Hi Linda. Yes, if perennials are crowded, they will not flower as well. Thinning the plants is typically done in the spring, but early fall also works. It is best to not divide them until they are about 3 years old or so. Once they have been divided, this encourages more growth. Carol

  19. Linda Mann
    07/02/2016 at 6:34 am

    Thank you for getting back to me so fast. I will decide them in the fall and don’t put so many plants in the small area

    • Carol
      07/02/2016 at 10:55 am

      That’s a good plan. I can’t tell you how many times I have moved my perennials because I planted them too close together. Carol

  20. Sharon Powell
    07/12/2016 at 7:35 pm

    Having a problem with all my phlox plants this year . All the leaves have a white powdery substance covering them. Will they bloom or should I cut them all back.

    • Carol
      07/13/2016 at 10:57 am

      Hi Sharon. It’s hard to say what it is without seeing the plants but it sounds like it would be powdery mildew. If that is the case, they won’t flower and could die, so cutting them back is in order. When they start growing, trim some of the shoots so there is good air circulation around the plants. Generally this condition is caused by high humidity. Carol

  21. Marilyn
    08/03/2016 at 7:44 am

    H neighbor! I am also in NC. Clayton to be exact. I planted astibilles this spring. They are growing like crazy but my blooms are brown. Pretty pink when I bought them. I cut the brown ones thinking the new ones would bloom pink. Nope. Still brown. They are in morning sun until aroun 10 or 11. What is going on with them? Help….☺

    • Carol
      08/04/2016 at 12:09 pm

      Hi Marilyn. Is it just the flowers or the plants that are turning brown? Astilbe need plenty of moisture or they will suffer. Too much sunlight can also be a big problem for them. My astilbe start out pink but turn brown as the flowers fade. Could it just be that which is happening?
      Carol

      • Sue
        01/23/2017 at 8:04 pm

        Hi Carol. Will these Astilbe grow and thrive in zone 5b? Chicago area. I am a novice gardener. Thx!

        • Carol
          01/23/2017 at 10:15 pm

          Hi Sue. Yes, they should. My plants that I am growing here in NC came from my mother’s garden in Maine. She just mulched around them and cut them down in the fall. They got covered in snow but still came back in the spring every year. Carol

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