The Q&A Archives: Non-blooming Astilbe

Question: I have an astilbe bed that I transplanted from a very sunny spot three years ago to a more shaded spot in front of a red twig dogwood bush. In the sun, they bloomed somewhat. This new location gets morning sun and is shaded in the afternoon by the shrub behind it. The first year after transplant, I got lush foliage, and many many flower heads, but they all stayed green and never bloomed. I decided it was because it was the first year after being transplanted. So I decided to let them go last year, thinking the results would be better. But, the same thing happened--lush foliage, many flower heads, but no blooming. What am I doing wrong? I water and fertilize, loosen the soil, etc. Help! The foliage is nice, but I want flowers!

Answer: My first guess when I hear "lush foliage but no flowers" is overfertilization with nitrogen. Do you fertilize your lawn? Lawn fertilizers tend to be very high in nitrogen, which encourages lush foliage at the expense of flowers. Even if you are not fertilizing directly, could the fertilizer have been inadvertantly spread too close to the bed?

If yours doesn't flower this year, it's obviously unhappy. You might want replanting a few in well-amended soil, in a slightly sunnier spot. Be sure to water regularly during the growing season. Hope your astilbe rebounds and provides lots of bright plumes this year!

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