Astilbe chinensis var. pumila
Common Name: Chinese astilbe
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Saxifragaceae
Native Range: Tibet
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: Mauve pink
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Heavy Shade, Black Walnut

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers moist, humusy, organically rich soils. Soils must not be allowed to dry out. If regularly watered, foliage will usually remain attractive throughout the growing season. A summer compost mulch helps retain soil moisture. Chinese astilbes are generally noted, however, for having better sun and drought tolerance than other species of astilbe. Removing faded flower stalks will not prolong bloom but may improve plant appearance, particularly if a ground cover look is desired. On the other hand, many gardeners leave the flower stalks in place after bloom because of the continuing ornamental interest of the dried seed heads. Divide clumps when overcrowding occurs (every 3-4 years).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Astilbe chinensis, commonly called Chinese astilbe, is clump-forming perennials which feature graceful, fern-like mounds of mostly basal, 2-3 ternately compound leaves, usually with sharply-toothed leaflets, and tiny flowers densely packed into erect to arching, plume-like flower panicles rising above the foliage on slender, upright stems. Chinese astilbes are slowly spreading, rhizomatous plants which bloom later than the Arendsii hybrids and generally feature hairy, biserrate, elliptic-oval, 3-ternate leaflets.

Var. pumila is a dwarf plant which spreads more quickly than most other Chinese astilbes. It features a foliage mound to 6” tall of dark green leaves and thick, stiff panicles of lilac-pink flowers on 9-12” tall stems in early to mid-summer.

Genus name comes from the Greek words a meaning without and stilbe meaning brightness in reference to the dull leaves of some species.

Specific epithet means of China.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Foliage decline (leaves brown up) may occur in hot summers and/or periods of drought if soils are not kept moist. Although Chinese astilbes have better drought tolerance than most other astilbes, they still do best with uniformly moist soils.

Garden Uses

Mass or group in shade gardens, woodland gardens and shaded areas of border fronts or cottage gardens. Drought tolerance and dwarf size facilitate use in shaded areas of rock gardens. Excellent spreading ground cover or edging plant for shady areas. Also effective on pond or stream banks.