Astilbe (Astilbe) is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the saxifrage family. There are 40-45 species growing in Japan, China, and a number of other areas with a monsoon climate.
- Origin – Southeast North America and Southeast Asia.
- Flowering – about 10-14 days, from late June to early August.
- Aroma – Most varieties have a delicate aroma.
- Lighting – prefers partial shade.
- Watering – plentiful in dry weather.
- Reproduction – vegetative (dividing bushes and renewal buds) and seed.
- Pests and diseases – practically not damaged.
Brief description of the astilba flower
Plant height, depending on the species, from 15 to 200 mm. It has a dense rhizome, an upright stem, doubly, triple-pinnate, rarely simple leaves on dense basal petioles. The flowers are small, graceful in shape, collected in panicle-shaped apical inflorescences from 10 to 60 cm long, appear in June – July. The color of flowers is the most diverse: white, red, pink or purple. Large, shiny leaves form a dense openwork bush; in spring, during regrowth, depending on the species and variety, they can be bright and dark green, burgundy and bronze, sometimes with a metallic tint. The fruit is a box, the seeds are small, up to 20,000 pieces in 1 gram.
Planting and care in the garden
Astilbe is a perennial that does not require bright sunlight for its development. If you need to revive a shady corner of the garden, you can plant one of the types of astilba, the care of which is simple and not laborious, and the decorative qualities are quite high. Astilba blooms beautifully in low light conditions, has beautiful openwork foliage, which allows it to remain attractive throughout the growing season.
Planting astilba should preferably be done in humus-rich soil with a close occurrence of groundwater and a semi-shady location. Immediately after planting, astilba requires abundant watering in dry weather, and mulching in spring and autumn. Astilba rhizomes grow vertically, the surface becomes bare over time, so plants must be covered with peat for the winter. To preserve the decorative effect, annual top dressing is necessary, the scheme of which depends on the degree of soil moisture. If it is dry, it is not recommended to use mineral fertilizers, it is better to use compost and peat. On moist soils in spring, plants are fed with complex fertilizer, and after flowering – with phosphorus and potash.
With proper care, astilba does not lose its decorative effect for 5-6 years, after which the bushes must be divided. At the same time, it is not necessary to completely dig them out, it is enough just to rejuvenate the bush by separating part of it, then sprinkle the cut with ash and fill the vacated space with fresh earth.
Common types and varieties of astilba
Currently, there are more than 200 varieties of various species suitable for cultivation in central Russia. More often than others, the following, most decorative and disease-resistant types of astilba are used in floriculture:
Astilba Arends (A. X arendsii) is a series of varieties created by the German breeder Georg Arends. Plants with dark green leaves, 50 to 100 cm high, blooming in July-August with bright white, pink, red or purple flowers.
The following varieties of this type of astilba are deservedly popular:
Pomegranate with dense red flowers and leaves that acquire a reddish tint during growth;
Bergcrystal with yellowish-white inflorescences of medium density and bright, green leaves with brown edges;
Amethyst with purplish-lilac flowers and reddish-brown leaves;
garnet red Fanel with dark green leaves;
pale pink Gloria;
creamy white Weiss Pearl;
light lilac hyacinth.
Astilba Chinese (Astilbe chinensis (Maxim.) Frach. et Sav.) – about 100 cm high, with bipinnate leaves, covered on both sides, mainly along the veins and edge, with hairs, with light purple, less often white or pink flowers, in inflorescences up to 30 cm long. It has a tall variety – David’s astilba (var . davidii), reaching a height of 2 m, and a compact form (A. chinensis var. Pumila), only 10-15 cm high.
Astilbe Korean (Astilbe koreana (Cat.) Nakai – up to 60 cm high, with beautiful, slightly drooping white inflorescences, has light green wrinkled leaves and is completely covered with brown hairs.
Astilbe japonica (Astilbe japonica (Morr. et Decne.) A. Gray) has dense inflorescences of a rhombic shape of various colors, forms a wide-spreading bush 60-80 cm high. There are varieties with pale pink (Europe), dark pink (Düsseldorf) dark red (Montgomery) flowers.
Astilbe Thunberg (Astilbe thunbergii (Sieb. et Zucc.) miq) – a rather tall species (about 100 cm and above), with broad pyramidal inflorescences and complex double-pinnate leaves covered with brown hairs.
There are varieties with white (Professor van der Wielen, about 150 mm high) and pink (Strausenfeder, 80-100 mm high) flowers.
Sometimes in the literature and names of varieties, astilba is mistakenly called spirea, although these are two completely different plants. Astilba is a herbaceous perennial, and spirea is a shrub. Perhaps the confusion arose due to the similarity in appearance of the inflorescences of both plants. In addition, at present, many companies supply varieties and types of astilba from Germany to the Russian market, where this plant is very popular and is popularly called Falsh Spiraea (“false spirea”). Obviously, such a name often flashes on the packaging of varieties, which also contributes to the spread of the wrong name Astilba spirea.
Propagation methods and growing from seeds
All types of astilbes mainly reproduce vegetatively, by dividing bushes or by buds of renewal. Vegetative propagation is not difficult and even an inexperienced grower can do it. The bushes are divided at the end of August or in early spring, once every four to five years, the divisions are planted at a distance of 30 cm from each other, watered every day until rooting. A faster and more efficient way of reproduction is to obtain young plants from renewal buds. To do this, in early spring, during the period of regrowth of young shoots, they are cut off with a piece of rhizomes and planted in a soil mixture of peat and gravel in a ratio of 3: 1. Rooting of shoots begins in 15 – 20 days, and at the end of the season you can get a fairly large number of new seedlings.
Reproduction of astilba by growing from seeds was previously carried out for breeding purposes, since hybrid plants in this case do not retain their characteristics. However, at present, if high-quality varietal seeds are available for sale, you can try to grow astilba in this way. Seeds are sown for seedlings in February or March, in light, pre-moistened soil with a spray bottle, without embedding in the ground, since they are very small. In order to accelerate germination, stratification is carried out, for which the plantings are covered with polyethylene or glass and placed in a cold room with a temperature of -4 ° C to + 4 ° C, for example, in a refrigerator. They are kept there for 21 days, after which they are transferred to a warmer place with a temperature of +18 – 22 ° C and good lighting. Shoots appear in 10-15 days.
Young plants dive when one or two true leaves appear, do it carefully, because the sprouts are very thin and tender. In spring, they can be planted in shaded beds in the garden at a distance of 30 cm from each other. In the first year, there is a danger of young plantings freezing out, so it is recommended to mulch or even dig them out for the winter, and transfer them to containers in unheated rooms. With good care, astilbes grown from seeds bloom in the third year.
Pests and diseases
Astilbes are practically not affected by pests and diseases. Over the years of research, not a single disease or pest has been found that could seriously damage the plant, which greatly facilitates the cultivation of astilbe, caring for it, and is the undoubted advantage of this perennial.
Sometimes in the axils of the leaves you can observe foamy secretions of slobbery larvae, which are easier to collect by hand. Even less often, leaves and buds are affected by strawberry, and roots by root-knot nematodes. The only way to fight is the complete destruction of diseased specimens.
In some cases, the rhizomes are damaged by beetles, and the leaves by slugs.