Garden Design

23 Easy Astilbe Cottage Companions

If you love a cottage look, an Astilbe plant adds an ethereal aesthetic.

People love Astilbe because they illuminate dark areas of the garden with their bright late summer blooms. Their fern like foliage give a beautiful contrast against broad leaves of other plants. Astilbe are easy to grow and low maintenance.

If you really love the look of Astilbe and having a cottage inspired garden, then make them your focal point. Plant them around statues or garden decor to create a garden that features your favorite varieties. They grow 1 to 4 feet tall.

What are Astilbe’s ideal growing conditions?

It’s really important to know the best growing conditions because this will help narrow down which companion plants share similar needs so you can have an easy maintenance garden. They are shady in zones 3-9.

They grow best in part shade where they are protected from the harsh afternoon sun, often under trees. Astilbe can also grow in full shade but the caveat is you won’t have as many blooms.

It loves in moist soil that has to be well drained. If your soil is on the drier side, add lots of organic compost. Astilbe plants don’t mind it to be on the slightly acidic side. If your garden isn’t located near any trees, you can use bark mulch to keep moisture in the soil.

Just like many perennials spring and fall are the best times to plant new ones. Transplants from divided mature Astilbe are the easiest way to add them to your garden. I pick up rhizomes from places like Costco in the spring but you can order them online too.

Trim spent flowers to encourage more blooming. After they are finished flowering in early fall, you can prune them to remove faded blooms, damaged or dead leaves.

Does Astilbe attract bees?

Astilbe does attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and even moths. It can attract other beneficial insects to your shade garden. It’s really easy to attract pollinators to beds with full sun. For many plants, more sun equals more blooms. With Astilbe, you can still get a lot of blooms with less sunlight.

Plant a few companion plants that enjoy similar conditions to Astilbe. If there is an area in your garden that has the ideal conditions, evaluate how the lighting changes throughout the day especially in the summer. Consider picking plants that bloom at a different time than your Astilbe so the area looks nice throughout the growing season. If the soil drys out in the area, consider whether or not there is a close water source like a hose to maintain consistent moisture and if you have the time to water it.

The following plants can be used in cottage garden design and enjoy similar growing conditions.

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Rosebud azaleas make a stunning display in your garden.

The Rosebud azalea has won numerous awards for it’s beauty and evergreen foliage.

This exceptional azalea blooms in May. Thankfully, the previous house owner planted it and I fell in love. It’s an early bloomer but the foliage can make the Astilbe blooms pop.

I just prune the occasional branches that jut out to give it a more manicured look. Planting Astilbe at the base will hide the trunk and fill in the gaps at the bottom of this azalea. Astilbe like soil on the more acidic side which aligns with azaleas that like the same conditions. This is an idea combination if you plant them near pine trees.

If you want to add this azalea variety to your garden, click here for a growing guide.

Zones: 6-9

Water: If the weather is dry, one inch of water per week. Too wet and it can damage the roots.

Sun Exposure: They need about 4 hours of sunlight.

Begonias give you long blooming effects in your shade garden.

Did you know that Begonias are related to pumpkins, squash and cucumbers?

They also offer some versatility of pops of color or support a monochromatic look to your garden. A growing season in colder regions isn’t enough time for Begonias to get very big. They grow from 18″ to 2 feet tall. They can be grown next to your hostas or in front if they stay small. If you want to add Begonias to your garden, click here for a growing guide.

Zones: 9-10 (It’s an annual in many places)

Water: Every 2-4 days, maybe more if it’s too hot. Too wet and it can damage the roots.

Sun Exposure: 2-4 days of direct sunlight

Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) are respectful neighbors to Astilbe

What I love about Bleeding Hearts is that they make themselves known right before blooming and then make a disappearing act afterwards. There’s no need to prune them or clean them up afterwards. Nature takes care of it for you. There’s barely a trace of them during the summer.

Zones: 3-9

Water Requirements: They like moist soil but not too soggy. On average, 1 inch of water per week.

Sun Requirements: They like part sun but if you have an area with full sun, make sure the soil doesn’t dry out in that area.

Cranesbill hardy geraniums long blooming time sets the stage for Asilbe

Don’t confuse this variety of geranium with the annual geraniums you find in garden centers. Cranesbill will return year after year in zones 4-8.

This variety of hardy geranium begins flowering late spring and keeps going into the fall. You can coordinate the color of the blooms with the Astilbe varieties that bloom in pink and white. They are shorter than Astilbe so plant them in the front and along walkways because they won’t interfere with the walking path. If you want to grow Cranesbill in your garden, click here for growing information.

Zones: 4-8

Water Requirements: They like the soil on the drier side.

Sun Requirements: They can handle both full sun and part sun.

Keep in mind that all parts of Caladium is poisonous so it isn’t a good choice if your pets have access to this plant in your garden.

Caladium like this “Carolyn Whorton” variety brings bright color and variety to your garden.

It can brighten up a dark corner. If you want to stick with a minimalist, monochromatic theme, Caladium also comes in green and white like Caladium “White Christmas.” If you want to add Caladium to your garden, click here for growing information.

Zones: 9-12 (Their idea temperature is between 65-70 degrees.) In many areas, Caladium is grown as an annual.

Water: It needs to be watered regularly and grow in moist soil.

Sun Exposure: It likes good shade to dappled light. It’s a good plant to plant under trees.

Daphne Eternal Fragrance has a long bloom time and is an evergreen.

If you love the smell of Jasmine but live in too cold a place to grow it outside, the Daphne Eternal Fragrance will be the next best thing. The flowers smell similar to Jasmine.

This gorgeous shrub has dense, dark glossy leaves that create a nice backdrop for Astilbe. I am in zone 6 and this Daphne keeps blooming despite a light frost. Due to the long bloom time, the neutrality of the white flowers make it easy to pair with the different colors of Astilbe plants. Keep it minimalistic with white or make it pop against the red flowers of an Astilbe plant.

The most important thing to remember about this shrub is be absolutely sure where to plant it because it doesn’t like to be moved. It grows 2’x3′ so given enough room, it can grow near a sidewalk without interfering with the path. If you want to add this Daphne variety to your garden, click here for growing information.

Zones: 4-9

Water Requirements: Does best in moist soil with compost or aged manure. Mulch at the base to retain moisture if you don’t have time to water it.

Sun Requirements: Mine was planted under a cherry tree so it had more shade. It grew up but didn’t flower as much as when we had to removed the cherry tree due to disease. It likes full sun to part sun. It would be ideal if you had a spot in your garden with more sun and plant the Astilbe off to the side where it’s more shaded.

Hemerocallis Soft Secrets Daylily blooms

Don’t get them confused with the Common Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) which is considered invasive. Soft Secrets is a pretty pink, frilly flower that lends itself to a cottage garden style and will complement flowering Astilbes especially when next to white, lavender or light pink varieties. If you want to add this day lily variety to your garden, click here for a growing guide.

Zones: 3-9

Water Requirements:

Sun Requirements: Most day lilies bloom really well in full sun but they can do well in part sun or dappled sun from a tree blocking the harsh rays in the afternoon. They love compost or aged manure.

Flowering Pink Dogwood is a low maintenance companion

If you have an existing pink dogwood like the one in the photo, you can plant them around the base with other plants to expand an existing garden.

You are free to plant any variety of Astilbe with a flowering Pink Dogwood because it blooms in spring and not late summer. You don’t have to worry about clashing colors. If you’re new to growing dogwoods, click here for instructions.

Zones: 5-9

Water Requirements: In the summer time, they can benefit from 6″ of water weekly. Here in Zone 6, I let nature do the watering unless there is a drought. They can be near water sources like streams but it depends on how often it’s flooded. If this is what you’re looking to do, watch when it floods and plant your pink dogwood out of the range of flooding.

Sun Requirements: It can thrive in full sun to partial shade. It can give Astilbe some shade and provide structure to your garden.

Hostas can also thrive in cities where the air is more polluted.

The lightness of this hosta variety can make the foliage of Astilbe really stand out in a cottage garden setting. They will be on display even when they aren’t blooming. If you like blending colors of leaves together, Astilbe ‘Amber Moon’ is a nice choice. You can also mix both together under a tree like the pink dogwood. Hostas are pretty to grow but if you are new to them, click here for growing instructions.

Zones: 3-9

Water Requirements: Just like Astilbe, hostas like moist composted soil.

Sun Requirements: They like part shade but won’t mind the morning sun shining down on them. Hostas with lighter leaves can handle more sun than those with darker leaves.

Huchera Forever® Red’s leaves bring more color into a cottage garden

Huchera® Forever Red is a great border plant.

Besides the smokey red leaves, I also love how the leaves are wide and frilly. The color and shape of Huchera Forever® Red leaves compliment the white, red and peach colored Astilbe flowers.

The deep red of those leaves are the deepest in the spring and fall. This Huchera has tiny while flowers that bloom but in no way compete with Astilbe blooms. Click here for growing instructions for Huchera.

Zones: 4-9

Water Requirements: They like moist, acidic soil.

Sun Requirements: Part sun to full shade.

Hydrangea ‘Limelight Prime’® blooms mature just in time to blend in with astilbe

As the flowers of the Hydrangea Limelight Prime®mature during the growing season, they turn into this dusky pink.

The dusky pink blooms blend in beautifully with the white, peach, pink and lavender blooming Astilbe. Not cutting the blooms of this hydrangea in the fall, the blooms will turn to a light brown and the shape will hold snow. Plant your Astilbe in the front of this hydrangea as a nice backdrop or along the border of your walkway.

Click here for growing instructions of this variety of hydrangea.

Zones: 3-8

Water Requirements: They like moist soil too. This variety can handle clay soil but you’ll have more success by amending the soil with compost for both plants.

Sun Requirements: They can take full sun to part shade. If the area you are planting in has more sun than Astilbe wants, planting this hydrangea can help give them the shade they need to thrive.

The light leaves of Lambs Ear draw attention towards astilbe

Lambs Ear doesn’t do well in climates of very high humidity.

Lambs Ear (Stachys byzantina) prefers full sun but it can do well in an area that gets morning sun with afternoon shade. Lambs Ear is a staple in cottage gardens. This perennial would be perfect if you have an area in your garden with this type of lighting. Plant in front of your Astilbe plants especially if it’s more shade in the further back. Both can be planted along walkways. If Lambs Ear is new to you, click here for instructions.

Zones: 4-8

Water Requirements: Water if the soil feels dry. It likes evenly moist soil. Don’t water overhead.

Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade.

Lidothora Grace Ward twinkling blue flowers will draw your eye to your Astilbe

Lidothora means “stone gift” referring to the plants preference in growing in a stone garden.

This blue matted low growing perennial is great for planting in rock gardens in front of your Astilbe. It blooms all summer so you may want to keep that in mind when pairing up with the colors of Astilbe.

Zones: 6-9

Water Requirements: You can water it when the soil is a little dry. It doesn’t like its roots to sit in water but does like it more moist.

Sun Requirements: Likes full sun but can grow in part sun.

Rein in Lily of the Valley for their scent in your cottage garden

I had Lily of the Valley planted at the end of my driveway and we could smell them while waiting for the bus in the springtime.

It’s considered invasive in some areas of the United States. Lily of the Valley spreads through underground rhizomes. Knowing what you’re working with, you can be mindful of where you plant them.

If you have a contained area in your garden like a closed in area between your sidewalk and wall of the house, you can plant Lily of the Valley with Astilbe without worry of them becoming invasive.

Lily of the Valley is very easy to grow but if you are struggling, click here for growing tips.

Zones: 3-9

Water Requirements: Lily of the Valley likes moist, composted soil which is similar conditions to Astilbe.

Sun Requirements: They can take some part sun to shade.

Ostrich fern brings drama in a good way

Ostrich ferns like to grow in woodland areas or near creeks.

Did you know that the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is a native plant in the Northeast? It is native to Pennsylvania, Washington DC and Maryland. It can grow 4-6 feet tall so you’ll want to plant your Astilbe in front of it and where it will get a little sun. If you have the space for Ostrich ferns, click here for growing instructions.

Zones: 3-7

Water Requirements: Ostrich ferns do well in soggier soil so if you have an area that retains water or located near a creek like this one in the photo, this is a good perennial to put there.

Sun Requirements: Prefers more shade but can handle a little sun.

Lungwart’s leaves stand out in a crowd

This plant gets it’s unusual name from it’s medicinal qualities in healing lung diseases. Always be careful when using plants for medicinal purposes.

Lungwart (Pulmonaria spp.) light, speckled leaves will pop out from a distance against the dark Astilble foliage. This is one of the more expensive perennials in garden centers so it’s often used as an accent plant. Lungwart would look great with any of the Astilbe colors because it blooms in early spring while Astilbe blooms in late summer.

The flowers first bloom in pink and as the flower ages, it turns into a light blue. What I most love about this plant is that you often see 3 different color flowers while it’s blooming. Keep in mind that this plant is toxic to cats and dogs. If you’ve never grown this perennial, click here for growing instructions.

Zones: 3-9

Water Requirements: They like moist soil but not soggy as they are prone to root rot. Lungwart should be planted in a place that has the right amount of consistent moisture.

Sun Requirements: Part sun is best. Too much sun can cause damage to the leaves.

Rhodenderon evergreen glossy leaves let Astilbe shine

Rhodenderon First Date is a rare variety but it’s a great choice for someone living in very cold conditions as it can handle 0 degrees F if protected form windchill.

First Date Rhodenderon blooms in April but are long gone when it’s time for Astilbe to bloom in late summer. Make sure that you give this plant a lot of room as it grows to 4-5′ high and 4′ wide. Place Astilbe towards the front. If you want to add this Rhodenderon variety to your garden, click here for growing instructions.

Zones: 5a-7a

Water Requirements: It likes well drained moist rich soil with compost or aged manure.

Sun Requirements: It can thrive in full sun and provide some shade to Astilbe below. Rhodenderons can also handle part sun to shade. Mine is growing against the house in the north side so it’s mostly shade.

Bearded Iris brings the bling in cottage gardens

There are over 300 varieties of bearded irises so have fun choosing just about any color you want.

When considering planting bearded irises around Astilbe, consider how large is your space and your lighting conditions. By the time your Astilbe is blooming, you will just have the leaves of the iris left but bearded irises grow big over time.

If you aren’t familiar with growing bearded irises, then click here for growing instructions.

Zones: 3-9

Water Requirements: They can tolerate short term drought conditions but they would benefit from some watering during the summer. Be careful not to over water.

Sun Requirements: Most Siberian irises prefer full sun but can take part shade like in this photo. It’s planted next to two different hostas.

Solomon’s Seal (Variegatum) has white accents that would accentuate white Astilbe

Solomon’s Seal got it’s name from the biblical King Solomon and legends that revolved around it’s magical properties.

The tiny white flowers aren’t much to brag about but the variegated white and green oval shaped leaves are really lovely. When you have many of them growing together, they sway gracefully in the wind. Speaking of many Solomon Seal plants, they can become invasive. Just like Lily of the Valley and Sweet Woodruff, I try to plant them in a space where they will be contained by barriers.

Planting pink or white Astilbe would look lovely among Solomon’s Seal plants. If you aren’t familiar with this perennial, click here for growing instructions.

Zones: 3-9

Water Requirements: It’s really important to water newly planted Solomon’s Seal until it’s established or produces new growth.

Sun Requirements: Part sun to full shade. I’ve had more success with planting it in part sun.

Spotted Bellflower (Campanula punctata) would be a gorgeous neighbor to Astilbe

Both plants are about the same size. Even though they appear different, they still complement each other. Although it is native to Korea, the Spotted Bellflower thrives in the New England area of the United States where it’s much colder. Please don’t get it confused with the Creeping Bellflower which is considered invasive.

If you want to know more about growing them, click here for instructions.

Zones: 4-8

Water Requirements: Likes sandy soil with compost

Sun Requirements: It can thrive in full sun but grow in part shade too where the sun can be intense.

Summer Snowflake adds early spring interest to your cottage garden

Summer Snowflakes is an economical perennial because it can live for many years and when established can be divided into more plants.

If you love Lily of the Valley but are worried that it can overtake your space, Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) is a great alternative. It grows from bulbs not rhizomes so it won’t spread aggressively. Like Bleeding Heart plants, Summer Snowflake flowers and foliage disappears by mid-summer. The graceful spiky leaves will give an interesting contrast to Astilbe’s fern like leaves.

They have larger white flowers than Lily of the Valley that don’t carry a strong fragrance. They are low maintenance and easy to grow but if you are curious how to grow them, click here for a growing guide.

Zones: 4-9

Water Requirements: They need moist well drained soil.

Sun Requirements: Full sun to part shade.

Sweet Woodruff can fill in the gaps around existing astilbe

In Germany, Sweet Woodruff is used to flavor a spring tonic. It isn’t ingested on a regular basis.

Just like Lily of the Valley and Solomon’s Seal, Sweet Woodruff has a tendency to push the limits of their boundaries. As you can see by the photo, mine are planted between the sidewalk and the house to keep them contained. You can plant them in front of Astilbe because they are much shorter.

I get a whiff of a vanilla like smell of these tiny flowers as I walk by towards the chicken coop. Even when the flowers fade, the star shaped leaves are so interesting for a cottage style garden.

Click here for growing tips on Sweet Woodruff.

Zones: 4-9

Water Requirements: They like consistently moist soil. If you are busy, make sure to plant them in an area that often stays wet but still drains.

Sun Requirements: The are one of the few plants that prefer full shade.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) will provide good taste to your cottage garden

Loved by pollinators, garlic chives are deer resistant too.

Practical and beautiful, garlic chives can be planted near Astilbe. They will give you pretty white blooms and great garlic taste to your food. Use them just like you would fresh chives.

Zones: 3-8

Water Requirements: As long as you have a decent amount of rain, you don’t need to water them when they are established. If you have a dry spell, water them every 3-5 days.

Sun Requirements: Prefer full sun but can grow in part shade conditions like if you have a tree that protects from the afternoon sun offering dappled light.

Summary

A cottage garden doesn’t have to be high maintenance and cluttered. The soft colorful spikes of Astilbe flowers really lend themselves to this design. This post highlighted 23 plants that like similar conditions of Astilbe but are also low maintenance for busy gardeners. Low maintenance means less watering under ideal conditions, not having to cut back in the fall and deadheading not necessary unless you desire more flowers.

If the cottage look isn’t what you’re going for but you still low Astilbe, check out the blog post I wrote about integrating Astilbe with a woodland landscape.

I encourage you to get creative and choose plants that like the conditions of the space you are planning in your garden. The better you plan, the more you can let Mother Nature work for you.

Happy gardening!!!