Growing Astilbe – False Spirea Plant- How to Grow and Care for Astilbe

Try growing astilbe for beautiful, showy flowers that do well in a shady garden bed. This perennial has feathery flowers that sit above the fern like foliage in a majestic way. These tips will show you how to grow astilbe and bring color to your shady perennial garden beds.

Most shady garden beds are filled with ferns and hostas. While these plants are lovely in themselves, it’s still nice to have a plant which will actually flower well in very little direct sun. Astilbe is one of those plants.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.. Click through for tips for growing astilbe.My mother had a lovely garden set up until she died.  Once she retired and had time to spend in the garden, she became an expert at 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 was in part shade most of the day.

To give a pop of color in this shady spot she chose to grow astilbe.  And grow well, they did! I loved seeing their pretty blooms every time I walked by the garden spot.

I visited her a few years ago and she gave me some divisions of astilbe 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.

Tip for Growing AstilbeImages of astilbe

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.

The prettiest thing about astilbe is their canopy of tall flower stalks about a glossy green leaf structure. And one can easily see where it got the common names like “false goats beard” or “goats beard plant.” Astilbe with pink flowers

Caring for astilbe is easy if you follow these tips:

Astilbe growing conditions are mainly focused on making sure that the plant gets enough water and not too much sunlight.  Here are some general growing tips.

Sunlight:  Planting astilbe is best done in a bed that is either in half sun/half shade or in full shade with just filtered light. I have mine growing in garden beds that are facing north and they get a bit of late afternoon sun. This seems to suit them beautifully.

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. Check out this post for some great images of astilbe colors.

Some astilbe flowers are fine and feathery and others have the goats beard flower shape and texture that is much firmer and more plump.Colors of astilbe perennials

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:  The leafy green party of the plant grows steadily all spring and then about mid to late summer the long flower plumes will open up above the plant.

What to grow with Astilbe. Companion plants are those that have similar growing habits.  Once you find a spot where one will do well, they all benefit. Ferns, and hostas are good choices, as are many other shade loving plants. See my list of good companion plants for Astilbe.

Propagation:  Growing astilbe from seed is possible but this can be a challenge. The normal way to propagate astilbe is from root divisions. Astilbe will send out more and more plants as it matures.  Dividing astilbe is just a matter of digging up some of the smaller babies to get more plants for free.astilbe plants

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 early spring or fall.  Divide every two to three years.

If you have a plant that was originally placed in the wrong part of the garden, you can move it to another spot where it will get the best light conditions. Transplanting astilbe is best done in the early spring or fall months.

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.

Leaf shape.  The perennial astilbe has very smooth and glossy leaves which contrast nicely with the feathery flower plumes. The edges of the leaves have serrated margins.Astilbe leaves

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

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  Be sure to try growing Astilbe if you want a spectacular looking along a border edge as long as the bed that gets plenty of shade during the day.

Astilbe as a border plant

Image source Tidwell Nurseries

Astilbes are great plants grown directly in soil, but also don’t mind being planted in pots.  (This makes it easy to find just the right sunlight spot.)

This unsually colored astilbe is called Straussenfeder Astilbe. It’s sold by American Meadows and is great for mass plantings.

Straussenfeder Astilbe

Photo credit American Meadows

Have you grown astilbe?  What zone are you in?

Admin note: This post first appeared in April of 2017.  I have updated the post to add additional information and new photos.

Use the print button below to print out the care card for growing Astilbe.

Print out the growing tips for astilbe


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."

  64 comments for “Growing Astilbe – False Spirea Plant- How to Grow and Care for Astilbe

  1. Paula
    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. Linda at Mixed Kreations
    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

  22. Delma
    04/16/2018 at 5:59 pm

    What will they look like in winter?

    • Carol
      04/16/2018 at 9:53 pm

      Hi Delma. Astilbe goes brown in the winter, but the flower plumes are a bit attractive. They are not evergreen though. Carol

  23. Sheila Melanson
    05/15/2018 at 9:55 pm

    Does the Astilbe attract butterflies and/or hummingbirds?

    • Carol
      05/16/2018 at 9:44 am

      Hi Sheila. Yes, astilbe is popular with both, particularly those with the fuller plumed flowers. Carol

  24. Lea
    05/17/2018 at 9:13 am

    Ok, I live in Zone 9, Central Florida to be exact. I read all your comments and was wondering would they be good in Sandy ground under my big oak tree? I’m not a great gardener as I tend to over water my plants, I just think that is the cure for all dying plants 😂 I’m learning that’s not true at all. I’d love to get some astilbe plants. What do you suggest? Am I thinking wrong or could they survive? Thanks

    • Carol
      05/17/2018 at 10:21 am

      The shady area would probably be fine but very few plants do well in sandy soil and astilbe is quite susceptible to the high temperature extremes so it might not be a good choice for this spot. Carol

  25. 05/23/2018 at 5:49 am

    Beautiful Astilbe, I also want to plant it

  26. Gina
    06/27/2018 at 11:34 am

    I grow Astilbes in the Charlrston area we are zone eight and it is really hot I have my astilbes in pots on my deck they get some sun but I am water them religiously just about every day to keep them hydrated they love the water and I don’t don’t seem to mind the heat as long as they’re get plenty of water.

    • Carol
      06/27/2018 at 11:40 am

      Hi Gina. I am in Raleigh. I’ve had astilbe do okay in the sun until the really hot summer comes and then they suffer. I’ve moved most of my to shadier spots for that reason. Glad yours are doing well! Carol

  27. cindy
    07/04/2018 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks for the tips on how to grow astilbe. I had some in a pot for many years, and it didn’t bloom very well this year. After reading your article, I took it out of the pot and tickled apart many divisions that had formed. I planted these in a dappled shade area of my yard, and hope for a return to lovely plumes of pink blooms next summer. I appreciate all your advice!

    • Carol
      07/04/2018 at 9:35 pm

      My pleasure Cindy. Best of luck with your new astilbe! Carol

  28. Mary E Taylor
    07/08/2018 at 11:43 am

    Hi Carol. I have astilbe in a shady spot which gets some sun. I have this plant for several years but all I get are vines, no flowers. I have vines all over. What is the problem.

    • Carol
      07/08/2018 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Mary. Sometimes when perennials get older they need dividing to continue to bloom well. (after about 3 years) Astilbe is a heavy feeder and might not flower unless you fertilize it if your soil is not nutrient rich. While Astilbe can take some sun, it does prefer a shady spot. Any of these could be the reason. Carol

  29. Leslie Raetz
    07/15/2018 at 1:17 pm

    Hi – I’ve read several articles on these plants and can’t find the info I need. I just planted 4 plants in a fairly shady spot. They had beautiful flowers on them when I planted them. The flowers are now dead. Do I cut off the flowers now? Will new flowers come this summer? I’m in Michigan – we’ve had an extremely hot summer – been giving them lots of water which appears to have been a good idea! Thanks. Leslie

    • Carol
      07/15/2018 at 3:09 pm

      Hi Leslie Deadheading astilbe won’t encourage new flowers, so you can remove them now or wait until the fall when the plant dies and goes dormant. The plant does not bloom all summer long. It depends on the variety. Some bloom early spring, some mid summer, some late summer, but when they bloom is when they bloom. Carol

  30. Jean Hughes
    07/25/2018 at 3:45 pm

    Hi I’m in UK and just had my garden made over and have 3 Astilbes. Can you tell me do they flower more than once, and should I cut them back when flowers die off to encourage new flowers? They are so pretty

    • Carol
      07/25/2018 at 5:25 pm

      Hi Jean. They won’t flower a second time. The best way to get all season bloom is to plant cultivars that bloom late spring, mid summer and late summer, then you will have all season bloom. The bloom time is quite long but they don’t repeat. Carol

  31. Petro
    07/29/2018 at 9:23 am

    Can u plant Astilbe in South Africa?

    • Carol
      07/29/2018 at 11:27 am

      Hi Petro. Astilbe is hardy in zone 3-8. In very hot and dry climates, they need to be planted in the shade and/or given plenty of water. Carol

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