Astilbe (False Spirea) is a sturdy plant that needs very little to thrive. Dramatic, colorful blooms top the plant. Like garden phlox, this plant also comes in a staggering array of colors, sizes and shapes. But unlike many of the plants on our list, astilbe can be grown in full shade as well as full sun. This makes astilbe ideal for the shaded areas of a garden that other plants can't survive in.
Astilbe's most striking attribute is its distinctive flowers. The flowers bloom in feathery spikes atop the plant. Different varieties bloom at different times, between early June and as late as the end of the summer. The color of the flowers varies widely from species to species, as does the color and qualities of the leaves. Astilbe can also be found in sizes ranging from small enough to keep as a potted plant to ones that can grow up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall. Like New York ironweed, astilbe is known to attract butterflies, a welcome addition to most gardens since they can help pollinate and add even more color.
Astilbe needs very little light to thrive. In fact, the plant will last longest if not planted where it will take the brunt of the full afternoon sun. Much like its light needs, the astilbe is also not very picky about the soil it grows in. It prefers well-drained, but can tolerate occasionally wet or moist soil. Astilbe is susceptible to pests such as aphids. Although the Northeast's winters can keep the population of such insects under control, it might help to plant it near another plant that attracts birds, such as garden phlox.
If there's an area of your garden that other plants won't grow in, perhaps astilbe is the answer. However, even if you don't have a problem spot in your garden, astilbe's dramatic spikes of color come in nearly any shape a gardener could want, meaning there's a perfect astilbe for almost every Northeastern garden.
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