Plant Encyclopedia

'Dark Side of the Moon'

Astilbe hybrid

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'Dark Side of the Moon' Astilbe hybrid

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The "Dark Side of the Moon" Astilbe is a captivating hybrid that brings a unique allure to any garden space. Its rich, deep chocolate brown foliage sets a dramatic backdrop for the rosy purple flowers that emerge from raspberry buds, creating a striking contrast that can captivate any onlooker. This award-winning perennial thrives in a range of conditions from full sun to full shade, making it a versatile addition to garden beds, borders, and containers alike.

Adaptable to hardiness zones 4 through 9, this Astilbe variety is not only resilient but also easy to maintain, requiring consistent moisture to flourish. The plant reaches a medium height of 20 to 22 inches, with a spread of 24 to 28 inches, allowing for a substantial presence in the garden. The foliage itself is of great interest, starting as yellow with a dark margin before turning entirely dark as it matures, adding season-long visual interest.

Plant Attributes

The "Dark Side of the Moon" Astilbe is a perennial plant celebrated for its distinctive attributes that make it a standout in any garden setting. One of the most striking features is its foliage color, a rich deep chocolate brown that transitions from yellow with a dark margin in new leaves to a solid dark hue as they age. This unique foliage provides a dramatic contrast to traditional green plants and serves as an excellent backdrop for the vibrant rosy purple flowers that bloom in mid to late summer. The raspberry-colored buds open to reveal flowers that attract bees, enhancing the biodiversity of the garden by supporting pollinators.

This plant's upright habit and medium height, reaching 20 to 22 inches with a spread of 24 to 28 inches, make it suitable for a variety of garden roles. It can serve as a filler in containers, adding depth and color to mixed plantings, or be planted en masse for a bold, dramatic effect in borders. Additionally, its flowers are not only beautiful when fresh but also suitable for cutting, providing material for indoor arrangements. When dried, they retain much of their color, adding to their versatility for decorative purposes.

Landscape Use

The "Dark Side of the Moon" Astilbe offers a range of landscaping uses that make it a versatile choice for gardeners and landscape designers alike. Its unique features and easy-care nature allow it to be used in various garden styles and settings:

  • Border Plantings: Its medium height and striking foliage color make it an excellent choice for border plantings, where it can add depth and contrast against lighter foliage or flowering plants.
  • Container Gardening: This Astilbe’s dramatic foliage and flowers make it a stunning focal point or complementary plant in container arrangements. It's especially useful in shaded areas where other plants might struggle.
  • Cut Flower Gardens: The flowers of "Dark Side of the Moon" are not only beautiful in the garden but also make excellent cut flowers for indoor arrangements, adding a touch of elegance and color to any setting.
  • Dried Flower Arrangements: Beyond its fresh beauty, the blooms can be dried and used in arrangements, offering a lasting reminder of the summer garden.
  • Mass Planting: Planting this Astilbe in mass creates a breathtaking display of dark foliage and rosy purple flowers, ideal for creating a bold statement in larger garden spaces or public areas.
  • Coastal Exposure: While it requires consistent moisture, its resilience makes it suitable for gardens in coastal areas, where it can tolerate the unique environmental conditions.
  • Wildlife Garden: The "Dark Side of the Moon" attracts bees, contributing to the health of the garden ecosystem by supporting pollinators.
  • Erosion Control: Its ability to be planted closely in mass plantings makes it an effective option for erosion control in sloped areas or along stream banks, where its roots can help stabilize the soil.

These landscaping uses demonstrate the "Dark Side of the Moon" Astilbe's flexibility and value in garden design, from its aesthetic appeal to its ecological benefits. Whether used as a standalone specimen or as part of a more extensive garden plan, this plant can meet various landscaping needs while bringing beauty and life to the garden.

Planting & Care

Planting and caring for the "Dark Side of the Moon" Astilbe is straightforward, making it accessible for gardeners of all skill levels. Here’s a comprehensive guide to ensure your Astilbe thrives:

Planting Instructions:

  • Timing: Plant in early spring or fall when the weather is cooler. This timing helps the plant establish roots without the stress of high heat.
  • Location: Choose a location that receives partial to full shade. While it can tolerate sun, the "Dark Side of the Moon" Astilbe prefers locations where it can be protected from the harsh afternoon sun.
  • Soil: Plant in rich, moist, well-draining soil. Astilbe thrives in soil that retains moisture but does not become waterlogged. If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, amend it with organic matter to improve moisture retention and drainage.
  • Spacing: Space plants 24 to 28 inches apart to allow for mature growth and air circulation.
  • Planting Depth: Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Place the plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole, gently firming the soil, and water thoroughly.

Care Instructions:

  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during dry spells. Astilbe cannot tolerate drought, so regular watering is crucial for its survival, particularly in sunnier spots.
  • Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch around the plants to help retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and reduce weed competition.
  • Fertilizing: Feed your Astilbe in late spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to support its growth and flowering.
  • Pruning: Deadhead spent flowers to encourage a tidy appearance. However, the flower stalks can also be left on the plant for winter interest and additional protection. Cut back the foliage in early spring before new growth starts.
  • Winter Care: In colder zones, a protective layer of mulch can help safeguard the plant through winter. Ensure the crown of the plant is not exposed to harsh conditions by adding extra mulch if necessary.
  • Division: To maintain vigor and prevent overcrowding, divide the plants every 3 to 4 years in the spring or fall. This also provides an opportunity to propagate your Astilbe and expand your garden.

By following these planting and care instructions, your "Dark Side of the Moon" Astilbe will flourish, bringing unique beauty to your garden with its striking foliage and vibrant flowers. Regular attention to watering and soil moisture is key, along with protection from the hottest sun, to ensure this stunning plant remains a highlight in your garden for years to come.

Additional Information

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'Dark Side of the Moon'


Plant Features

  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Watering Needs: Consistent moisture required, especially in sunnier locations.
  • Botanical Pronunciation: as-TIL-bee hybrid
  • Deciduous/evergreen: Herbaceous
  • Growth rate: Medium
  • Average landscape size: Grows to a height of 20-22 inches and spreads 24-28 inches.
  • Special features: Award Winner, Foliage Interest, Attracts Bees, Deer Resistant, Rabbit Resistant, Border Plant, Container, Cut Flower, Dried Flower, Mass Planting
  • Dramatic Foliage: Rich deep chocolate brown leaves that are yellow with a dark margin when new, turning completely dark as they age.
  • Foliage color: Black
  • Blooms: Mid to Late Summer
  • Flower color: Rosy Purple
  • Flower attributes: Raspberry buds open to rosy purple flowers.
  • Garden style: Ideal for Cottage, Informal, Woodland Garden
  • Design Ideas: Perfect for adding dark foliage and bright flowers to shaded garden areas or woodland settings. Use in mass plantings for a dramatic effect or as a specimen in mixed borders for contrast. Suitable for waterside plantings in damp areas and ideal as a filler in mixed containers.
  • Companion Plants: Pairs well with shade-loving ferns, hostas for foliage contrast, and shade-tolerant blooming plants like impatiens for a vibrant display.

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