Plant of the Week: Visions in Pink Chinese astilbe

Astilbe chinensis is a rhizomatous perennial belonging to the Saxifragaceae family. As its specific epithet implies, this plant is native to China and usually found growing along streams, rivers, and forest edges. Astilbe prefers consistently moist soil that is high in organic matter. They will not tolerate prolonged drought. Due to their long-lived blooms and moisture requirements, the plants are commonly used in shade gardens. However, the more sun they receive, the more profuse the blooms will be and the more water they will require.

The foliage of Astilbe chinensis is basal, with deeply toothed compound leaves. The flowers are held above the foliage in small dense panicles, blooming in shades of white, red, purple, or pink. Blooms are long-lived but fade in color, drying on the stem and creating a dramatic infructescence for autumn and winter interest. For this reason, there is no need for deadheading.

There are many Astilbe cultivars with bloom times ranging from April through August. Most cultivars are between one-and-a-half to three feet in height, but dwarf and six-foot tall selections exist. Here on the High Line, the cultivar 'Visions in Pink' is a particularly vigorous grower offering pink flowers in midsummer.

Astilbe is deer-resistant with very few pest problems, although black vine weevil and Japanese beetle damage is sometimes seen. It is hardy in zones four through eight and should be divided every few years to reduce overcrowding and maintain plant health.

PLANTING TIP:
Astilbe chinensis prefers, moist, organic soils, and is intolerant of drought. It thrives well in either sun or shade, but blooms most profusely in full sun.

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT:
You can enjoy Visions in Pink Chinese astilbe in the High Line's Washington Grasslands, between Little West 12th and 14th Streets, and the 10th Avenue Square and Northern Preserve, between 15th and 18th Streets.

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