Astilbes are a group of plants which will tolerate semi shade and so are useful for those parts of the garden which do not have the benefit of much sun. Astilbes prefer damp or moist soil, and are suitable for waterside or semi bog planting as long as the ground is not waterlogged. Growing requirements for Astilbes are simple; a semi shaded place in soil which tends to be damp and does not dry out and in these conditions Astilbes are easy and unfussy plants. Astilbe are suitable for all soil types, including acid soils, the only exception is dry soil.
Astilbe will tolerate drier soil as long as it is still shady. Astilbe are tolerant of poor conditions and will grow in exposed areas. Astilbe are a herbaceous perennial which means they die back to bare earth over winter and re grow each spring.
Astilbes are grown for their lovely fluffy plume like panicles 18-35cms long which are either red, pink, purple or white. Astilbe range in size between, from the very small 8cm A.glaberrima var.saxatillis to the giant variety 2m A.chinensis var. davidii. Most however are between 15-25cms up to 80-130cms depending on the species and variety, and flower between late June and August. If you want an Astilbe for a specific part of the border, tall or medium, it's necessary to check the label for the plant description as Astilbes vary in size.
A benefit of growing Astilbe is that they are fully hardy and perennial, which means they do come back reliably each year to provide colour in the garden and are good value for money. If your Astilbe is looking less good, not flowering as well and it has been established for a few years, it is best to divide it which should improve it.
Astilbes are easy to grow and need little maintenance other than to be trimmed back in the early spring ready for the new growth and periodically divided.
When planting Astilbe they look good both as single plants, images above and growing in clumps. The foliage is attractive, feathered and delicate. It is easy easy to under rate Astilbe, a modest plant, but very attractive flowers and foliage. Best of all, Astilbe are adaptable and make good companion plants for many common garden plants, and look well with Hostas, ferns and grasses and look good combined with these plants alongside a stream or pond - see illustrated in planting ideas for damp shade which shows just how lovely this combination is along side a pond.
If you are interested in seeing Astilbes and on holiday in the Lake District in July, Holehird Gardens houses the national collection which is well worth a visit.