Vision AstilbeAstilbe chinensis ‘Visions’
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Astilbe chinensis ‘Visions’
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The dense, upright pyramidal flowers of the Visions Astilbe are distinctive for their bright raspberry-purple coloring, and also for this plant’s ability to grow in slightly drier conditions than most other astilbe. The ferny foliage is tough and sun-resistant, and this plant, a variety of Chinese astilbe, will grow in sunnier and drier places in your garden. It still enjoys moisture, but will often succeed where others have failed. Grow it among shrubs or with other shade-loving plants like hosta, where the foliage contrast is wonderful. Flowering for weeks in summer, many people enjoy the caramel-brown dead flowers well into the winter months. It looks great in almost any garden style too, from English formal to Japanese and wild gardens, as well as beside water.
Plant the Visions Astilbe in areas with full sun in cold zones if desired, and in partial to full shade anywhere. Avoid deep, dark shade such as beneath large evergreen trees. Grow it ideally in rich, moist soils, either well-drained or damp, but not flooded. This variety is more drought resistant once established, and tolerates more sun, but water frequently until it is well-established. Pest, diseases, rabbits and deer are never problems, and a simple annual trim of old flower stems is all it takes – the foliage usually dies back naturally over winter, or can be trimmed if you wish.
It is not widely known that there are two distinctive types of Astilbe – not always so distinctive in look, but very different in their garden behavior. The great ‘complaint’ with astilbe is how sensitive plants are to dryness, shriveling easily, especially when newly-planted. But some are tougher, plants raised from the species Astilbe chinensis, a plant better-adapted to sun and drier soil. Yes, it still grows best in the same conditions of light shade and moist soil that other types require, but if you have failed with astilbe, or want them in an area you think is just a bit too sunny, or a bit too dry, then these plants are your go-to. They have an edge that can make all the difference. Some are tall, like the spectacular Purple Candles Astilbe, but for a more traditional look, on a smaller plant for edging or small gardens, grow the Visions Astilbe. The glorious purple-pink blooms will change your view, and so will its ability to grow in places you thought were impossible for Astilbe.
The Visions Astilbe is a long-lived perennial plant that dies down in fall to a woody root just below the ground, and then comes back strong and vigorous the following spring. It doesn’t need frequent division like some older types of perennials do, and grows perfectly undisturbed for years and years. The foliage is a clump of leaves that are large, but divided into many small leaflets, each an inch or so long, oval, dark-green and with jagged edges. The leaf stems are red, deepening the overall color of the plant, and the leaves are thicker and less glossy than in most other astilbe. It soon forms a dense clump of leaves that rises about 8 inches above the ground, spreading almost horizontally – a perfect size for edging.
This variety blooms later than many other astilbe, so it usefully extends the bloom season of these plants. Flowers generally open in the second half of July, but in colder zones it can be early August. The flowers are abundant, on sturdy stems, and stand firmly upright. The tiny flowers – hundreds in every stem – cluster along branches that rise at a sharp angle from the main stem, making a compact pyramid of bloom standing 1 to 2 feet in the air, well above the foliage. The blooms are a beautiful and intense purple-pink to raspberry-pink, with a striking look, and this coloring is rare in astilbe. After blooming colorfully for several weeks, the flowers turn beige-brown.
The Visions Astilbe is a fabulous lower plant for edging beds, while the flowers come later, extending the season nicely. Grow it with other shade-tolerant plants, along a path, in a shady rock garden, or by water. It also grows in more sunny places that other astilbe, so it’s perfect for the perimeter of shady areas, where there is a transition into full sun
The Visions Astilbe is perfectly hardy in zone 4, and grows almost everywhere, except for hot, dry parts of the country and zone 9 in the southeast, where winters are not cold enough for it to develop normally.
Grow the Visions Astilbe in partial shade, with morning sun, or in light full shade, such as beneath deciduous trees and shrubs. Although it does grow best in typical ‘astilbe’ locations, it also takes more sun, and drier soils, especially in cooler parts of the country, where it can even grow out in full sun successfully. Water new plants frequently for the first season, and whenever you can, but if you have areas that are ‘almost good enough’ for astilbe, this plant, and others in the Visions series, are your best bet. The soil should be normal to moist and even wet, but don’t plant directly in water. It can be acidic or mildly alkaline. Add plenty of organic material when preparing the planting area, and use it as mulch, especially when growing it in drier spots.
Like other astilbe, the Visions Astilbe is almost always ignored by deer and rabbits, and usually free of pests or diseases. It needs virtually no maintenance, and if you want you can just let the leaves drop in fall and leave them as natural mulch. Remove the flower stems as they fade – some gardeners find they are not as attractive when dead as we see in other varieties, but if you leave them through winter, remove them in early spring.
The Chinese astilbe, Astilbe chinensis, was introduced later than the other, more common species. It is distinctive for its greater resistance to sun and dryness, and for the predominantly purple coloring of the flowers. The variety called ‘Visions’ was developed by the Dutch breeder, Wilhelmus Franciscus van Veen, and released in 1983.
If you have had problems with astilbe scorching, try the Visions Astilbe. More resistant, it may give you a whole new take on these valuable plants. Add it to your shade garden for its late blooming and deep, strong coloring. One of the best, it always sells fast, so order now while we still have plants available.