Astilbe biternata: A Bold and Beautiful Native Perennial
Astilbe biternata, also known as Appalachian false goatsbeard or false goat’s beard, is a strikingly bold perennial wildflower with tall, white feathery flower plumes and large attractive fern-like leaves in the Saxifage family. It is the only species of Astilbe that is native to North America and with its height of almost 6 feet, it is more striking than many of its cultivated cousins.
In nature, it can be found growing in cove forests, seepage slopes, and boulder field forests. In NC it is native to the mountains. Its showy floral display is exceptional and very unusual for a shade plant. It works well as a background plant in perennial planting beds, in woodland or shade gardens and makes for excellent cut flowers. Grow in average to moist well-drained soil amended with compost. It prefers partial shade to dappled shade.
This plant closely resembles Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) with similar-looking flowers and leaves but Goatsbeard is in the rose family. They are often found growing in the same habitat. A distinguishing feature of Astilbe biternata is that it usually has a three-lobed terminal leaflet, while Goatsbeard has an unlobed terminal leaflet.
Astilbe biternata is native to the southern Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to Georgia. It is a rare plant that deserves more attention and appreciation for its beauty and adaptability. It is also a valuable food source for pollinators who enjoy the nectar from the flowers. If you are looking for a native perennial that can add height, texture, and elegance to your shade garden, consider Astilbe biternata.
How to Grow and Care for Astilbe biternata
Astilbe biternata is not a difficult plant to grow, but it does have some specific requirements that need to be met for optimal performance. Here are some tips on how to grow and care for this native perennial:
Choose a site that has partial shade to dappled shade. Avoid full sun, as it can scorch the leaves and reduce flowering. A site that receives morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.
Provide moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Astilbe biternata does not tolerate drought or waterlogged conditions. Mulch the soil with compost or leaf mold to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Fertilize lightly in spring with a balanced organic fertilizer. Do not overfeed, as it can cause excessive foliage growth and reduce flowering.
Deadhead the spent flower stalks after blooming to encourage reblooming and prevent self-seeding. Cut back the foliage to the ground in late fall or early winter after it turns brown.
Divide the clumps every 3 to 4 years in spring or fall to maintain vigor and prevent overcrowding. Replant the divisions at the same depth as they were before and water well.
Watch out for pests and diseases such as aphids, slugs, snails, powdery mildew, and rust. Control them with organic methods such as hand-picking, spraying with insecticidal soap or neem oil, or applying fungicides.
With proper care and attention, Astilbe biternata will reward you with years of beauty and grace in your shade garden.