Only a few perennials bloom as lushly as the Astilbe, also known as the magnificent spar, even in the deepest shade. For this reason, the perennial saxifrage (Saxifragaceae), which comes from the saxifrage family, is extremely valuable for garden design. About 30 to 35 species belong to the genus Astilben, which mainly originate from East Asia and grow there on humid sites and in light forests. From a horticultural point of view, the Chinese Astilbe (Astilbe chinensis) and the Arendsii hybrids (Astilbe x arendsii) bred by the German perennial gardener Georg Arends are of particular interest. Already in the 19th century, the magnificent spar was used as an ornamental plant.
Appearance and growth
From June to September, the magnificent spires with their glowing flower panicles, which look like feathers, bring colour to the shade garden for weeks on end. The colour spectrum ranges from white, cream yellow and pink to dark carmine red and violet. The panicles stand tightly upright or hang feathery over and reach lengths of over 55 centimetres. Depending on the species, the perennials can grow between 10 and 100 centimetres high. Astilbe glaberrima var. saxatilis, for example, remain very small, while the Thunbergii hybrid ‘Professor van der Wielen’ and some varieties of the China Astilbe are among the largest. The inflorescences can be processed very well to dry bouquets. If they are left on the plants, beautiful fruit stands develop which decorate the winter garden. The shrubs sprout bronze-coloured or reddish in spring. Only when the leaves, which are often divided, fully unfold in summer does they turn a deep green.
Location and soil
The shrubs thrive best on fresh soil rich in nutrients and humus in semi-shade garden areas or at the edge of the pond. The following applies here: the sunnier the location, the wetter the soil should be – only a few species can cope with a sunny, dry location. The perennials should only be planted in planters if an even water supply can be ensured.
Splendour at the our store Shop
Planting and care
Astilben should be regularly fertilized with compost in spring. This not only provides the plants with the necessary nutrients, the compost also ensures that the soil remains moist. The perennial does not need pruning during the season, only the dead flower stems should be removed in spring at the latest. During the resting period – between November and March – astilbes can be divided if the eyries or carpets have become too big. However, the long-lived herbaceous perennials do not need a regular division for rejuvenation.
Smaller species such as the dwarf Astilbe (Astilbe chinensis var. pumilla) are very well suited for planting larger areas under trees and shrubs and form dense carpets over runners over time. Higher species are best combined with other shade tolerant shrubs such as Funkien (Hosta), Herbst-Anemonen (Anemone hupehensis or A. japonica), Silberkerzen (Althea) and Elfenblumen (Epimedium). In sunny locations, bellflowers (Campanula) and cranesbill (Geranium) also go well with this. White flowering Astilben are very well suited to brighten dark shadow areas.
Shadow-friendly shrubs in the our store-Shop
If you look around the Astilben assortment of perennial gardeners, you will see that hybrids are mainly available here. The breeding of the German perennial gardener Georg Arends has produced a particularly large number of varieties. These so-called Arendsii hybrids are particularly recommendable and many of them have scored “very good” in perennial sifting. With its bright red flower panicles, which appear from August to September, the variety ‘Glut’ immediately catches the eye in semi-shade garden areas. It grows up to 80 centimeters high. A little earlier – in July and August – the purple purple ‘Amethyst’ presents its slender flower panicles. With a growth height of 100 centimetres it grows even higher than ‘Glut’. Another recommendable Arendsii hybrid is ‘Brautschleier’ (bridal veil), whose fine white flowers appear in July and August. A newer breed from Japan is ‘Chocolate Shogun’, which is one of the few Astilben with dark chestnut brown foliage, which forms a nice contrast to the creamy white flowers. The ‘Red Sentinel’ (Astilbe Japonica hybrid) has been on the market since the end of the 1940s. Its dark ruby-red flower candles become brighter and brighter over time, creating a beautiful play of colours.
The multiplication of most Astilben takes place over division. The dwarf astille can also be propagated via root cuttings. In the case of pure species and seed-solid varieties, propagation by seed is also possible.
Diseases and pests
Occasionally, splendor-spires are attacked by aphids, Blattälchen, leaf bugs, Wurzelälchen or the furrowed Dickmaulrüssler. If the soil is too dry, mildew often occurs. Brown leaf margins are usually no indication of a disease, but a dry damage.
Everything against pests in the our store-Shop
In an interview with our store editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and Editing: Fabian Primsch