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Lawn & Garden

Ask Dayle

7/4/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Dayle Davis

A. arendsii ‘Bridal Veil’ is a mid- to late season bloom with full white plumes and grows to three feet in height.
Photo: Dayle Davis
Q: My neighbor’s white astilbe is almost finished blooming, while my white astilbe is still in the unopened bud stage. How can I get my astilbe to bloom earlier in the year like hers does?

A: There are hundreds of astilbe cultivars with plume-like flowers in soft shades of white, pink and red. Among these cultivars are early blooming, mid-blooming and late-blooming plants in sizes ranging from dwarf to enormous. For example, A. arendsii ‘Bridal Veil’ is a mid- to late season bloomer with full white plumes that grows to three feet, while A. arendsii ‘Fanal’ blooms early with deep red flowers on bronze foliage and grows one to two feet.

Your neighbor’s astilbe is no doubt an early blooming white astilbe, while yours is later blooming. Astilbes need dividing every three to five years. Why not exchange a root division with your neighbor, so you’ll both extend the blooming period of astilbes in your gardens?

Here’s a bit more about astilbes:

  • Flowers stay in bloom several weeks, slowly fading in color as they dry. The dried plumes are striking and serve to enhance the garden in summer and add winter interest. Other than personal preference, there’s no need to deadhead these.
  • Astilbe bloom well in shade but do need some sunlight to achieve their mature size.
  • These plants need somewhat rich, constantly moist but not boggy soil; dry soil and hot weather causes their foliage to burn.
  • Astilbe seem to be invisible to disease or insect pests.
  • Perennials such as large-leaf hosta and blade-leaved Siberian iris pair well with astilbe in the garden.
  • Astilbe benefit from a layer of moisture-retaining mulch.
  • After your astilbe garden is established, fertilize once each spring. Pull away any mulch cover and rake into the soil a general granular fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Moisten the soil and cover with the mulch.
  • Divide astilbe just after flowering. Wait until after a rainy day. Then dig up the clumps and pull the roots apart into large pieces. Replant the same day.
  • Astilbe winter over very well. No special protection is needed.


Q: My climbing roses had tons of flowers this year. Now that they are finished blooming, should I cut off all the flower parts that are left behind? It seems like a really big job.

A: This is a subject near and dear to my heart because I have four climbing roses that I dearly love. Yes, it is quite a chore to remove the spent flowers, but is actually a bit therapeutic and well worth the trouble, aesthetic-wise. I deadhead only one plant at a time. Even though a particular climbing rose may be considered a once-a-year bloomer, sometimes deadheading immediately after bloom may coax a few more flowers to develop. Afterward, I scratch a bit of fertilizer into the soil, since roses are heavy feeders.

Deadheading, which is the removal of spent blooms during the season, encourages more blooms if your rose is a rebloomer or a continuous blooming variety. This practice also improves the appearance of the plant and reduces the chance for diseases to take hold.

Also, removing the spent blooms conserves the energy the plant would direct toward seed production. However, some species, such as Rosa moyesii and R. rugosa, produce attractive, large, colored rose hips which add another ornamental feature to the plant in the fall.

To deadhead roses in general, remove the flower by cutting back, at a 45-degree angle, to the first outward-facing bud in the axil of a leaf with five leaflets. Continuous-blooming climbing roses are deadheaded slightly differently. Prune away spent blooms just above the foliage, making sure not to remove any of the foliage, since new blooms will be produced from the leaves immediately below old flower clusters.

If you’ve got room for another climber, consider one of the following:

  • Rosa ‘New Dawn’ is a prolific climber that blooms all summer long with sweetly scented pale pink flowers. It is practically trouble free. If I could keep only one of my climbers in my garden, this would be it. Even in partial shade, its performance is legion.
  • Rosa ‘White Dawn’ produces lovely, pristine white roses and needs to be deadheaded regularly to encourage more bloom. It grows best in full sun and appreciates mulching to keep soil moist.

For more horticultural information, call The Ohio State University Extension Summit County Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3. Request Fact Sheet HYG-1205-96, “Fertilizing, Pruning and Winterizing Roses.” Please note fact sheets are sent out free; there is a fee for bulletins. Many bulletins are available online at ohioline.osu.edu and can be printed from home or accessed at a public library.


Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and coursework in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is certified as a Master Gardener under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension. Readers can send in questions regarding lawn and garden issues, which could be featured in a future edition. Questions can be emailed to kcollins@akron.com, faxed to 330-665-9595 or sent to Leader Publications, 3075 Smith Road, Suite 204, Akron, OH 44333. Please do not send any leaves, seeds or other organic material.

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