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Chinese astilbe

The cultivar 'Visions' in full flower

Chinese astilbe is a clump-forming perennial with deep green, fern-like foliage and narrow sprays of upright flowers.  Young leaves can be copper colored and quite showy.  Excellent for mass planting in shady areas.  Although it performs best in part-shade with uniformly moist soils, it is more tolerant of dry soil than other astilbes.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

 

Botanical name:

Astilbe chinensis

All common names:

Chinese astilbe,False spirea

Family (English):

Saxifrage

Family (Botanic):

Saxifragaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Container,
  • Foundation,
  • Mixed border

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches),
  • Medium plant (12-24 inches),
  • Small plant (6-12 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil

Tolerances:

  • Wet sites

Seasons of Interest:

  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Pink,
  • Purple,
  • Red,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Size

2 to 4 feet high, 2 feet wide

Plant Care

Keep soil moist in spring and summer. 
Heavy feeders, astilbe prefer spring fertilization.
Divide or plant in early spring or by mid-September.
Wait until spring to cut back.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious problems.  Lack of moisture in spring and mid-summer can cause poor flowering or leaf die-back.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Deer and rabbit resistant.  Black walnut toxicity tolerant.

Native geographic location and habitat

China.  Prefers evenly moist, shady areas.

Attracts birds or pollinators

Butterflies

Leaf description

Deep green, pinnately compound leaves divided into small toothed, oval leaflets.  Often copper-colored when young.

Flower description

Fluffy, pink-tinged white flowers rise vertically above the clump of leaves.  Flowers age to a rust color and will persist into winter.

Fruit description

Tiny seed capsules on flower stems.

Cultivars and their differences

Maggie Daley Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis 'Maggie Daley'):  This cultivar is 2 to 3 feet high and 12 to 18 inches wide.  Fuzzy lavender-purple flowers show later than other astilbes.  Spring foliage is bronzy and shiny, dark green as it matures.

Pumila Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila'): A dwarf at 8 to 12 inches high and wide, this cultivar blooms in July through September.  Pumila makes a good groundcover in moist shade, as it spreads more quickly than other astilbes.

Purple Candles Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis 'Purpurkerze'): Reddish purple flowers in upright, narrow sprays bloom in August.  This plant is 2 to 4 feet high and 18 to 24 inches wide.  The stems are bronze-green.

Superba Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis 'Superba'):  This large, showy astilbe has dense magenta-purple flowers and grows to 3 to 4 feet high and 18 to 24 inches wide.  This cultivar has hairier stems than most astilbes.

Visions Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis 'Visions'):  The Visions series has upright flower stems with bronze green leaves and a dense habit.  This variety is more compact at 18 to 24" tall and 12 to 18" wide.  Flowers are dark pink.

Visions in Pink Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis 'Visions in Pink'): 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.  Lighter pink flowers.

Visions in Red Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis 'Visions in Red'): 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.  Reddish pink flowers on red stems.

Visions in White Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis 'Visions in White'):  18 to 24 inches tall and wide.  Scented, bright white flowers.


 

 

Location of Astilbe chinensis (Chinese astilbe) at the Arboretum