How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Astrantia

Sometimes, you’re looking for a flower that’s showy but not gaudy, delicate looking yet hardy, likes a partially shaded location, and perhaps even makes an excellent cut flower. Astrantias certainly fit this description with their sturdy pincushion-like flowers and neat clumps of vegetation. In this article, gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen will discuss everything you need to know to grow a beautiful, long-lasting astrantia patch in your moist, shaded garden plot.

The Astrantia plant showcases deeply lobed, palmate leaves and intricate, pink, star-shaped flowers surrounded by papery bracts.

Contents

Astrantia, also known as masterwort, is a group of showy plants with long-lasting papery bracts that make excellent fresh-cut flowers and dried flowers. You certainly don’t have to cut them to enjoy them, however. Astrantias make fabulous garden plants. They add charm to your cottage garden and a dash of color to your shade garden. Or place them along a perennial border and enjoy their beauty anytime.

These plants make an excellent filler for edges, borders, and corners. They are compact, with a low to medium height. Their neat clumps will slowly expand over time to fill in their available space without becoming aggressive or invasive. Their unusual flowers add both subtle charm and character to your flower garden, politely complimenting their neighboring plants.

No matter where in your landscape you decide to grow astrantia, they are sure to be a pleasure. These plants are easy to grow and low maintenance. You’ll need a relatively moderate to cool climate, however, as they don’t like heat and humidity. Otherwise, place them in a location with partial shade and rich, moist, well-drained soil. 

Do you have just the spot for a showy and well-behaved perennial flower? Let’s dig right in to learn more about astrantia and how you can help these plants thrive in your home garden.

Overview

Astrantia plant features white, star-like flowers surrounded by papery white bracts held aloft on a wiry stem.
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Family Apiaceae
Genus Astrantia
Species major
Native Area Europe, Asia
USDA Hardiness Zone 4 – 7
Sun Exposure Partial shade
Soil Type Rich, moist, well-drained
Watering Requirements Medium, wet
Maintenance Medium
Suggested Uses Woodland garden, perennial garden, dried flowers, cut flower
Height 1 – 3 feet
Bloom Season Summer
Flower Color White, pink
Attracts Pollinators
Problems Aphids, slugs
Resistant To Deer, shade
Plant Spacing 12 inches

Plant Natural History

With deeply divided, palmate leaves, Astrantia plants bear intricate, pinwheel-like flowers surrounded by papery bracts.
Masterwort, native to Europe and Asia, prefers moist and open environments.

Astrantia is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae) that’s native to Europe and western Asia. In its native habitat, astrantia grows in fields, meadows, and grasslands. It is also found in open woodlands and along streamsides because of its affinity for moist soil.

Astrantia is a genus with at least six different species. Astrantia major is the most widely cultivated and is commonly available in the nursery and garden trade. Astrantias have a long history of cultivation and have been bred into numerous showy cultivars. Astrantia is also commonly known as masterwort.

Characteristics

Astrantia plants exhibit deeply lobed, palmate leaves and clusters of dainty, star-shaped flowers atop slender stems.
With showy colors and a clustered bloom, it charms gardens.

Astrantia is an herbaceous perennial flower that grows two to three feet tall. These mounding plants form attractive rounded clumps. Within a few years of growth, your plants will start to spread by self-seeding and root stolons. They form colonies but are not considered invasive because it’s easy to control any unwanted spread.

Astrantia leaves are palmate and typically have five deeply cut lobes. The number of lobes per leaf ranges from three to seven, and each lobe is toothed along the edge. The leaves typically remain dark green throughout the growing season, then turn brown in the fall and go dormant until the following spring.

The flowers of astrantia are naturally greenish-white, although the cultivars display a variety of showy colors in the pink and purple range. At the outer edge of each inflorescence are stiff, papery bracts. At the center of the inflorescence is a pincushion-like formation of a cluster of tiny flowers. The larger papery bracts completely surround the internal mass of tiny flowers. Astrantia blooms anytime from late spring into fall, depending on the local climate conditions.

Propagation

You can easily propagate your astrantia plant by seed and division of established plants. Since seeds collected from cultivars and hybrids generally don’t grow true to the parent plant, and some varieties may be infertile, you’ll have the most consistent results propagating your plants by division.

Seed

Close-up of a dry Astrantia seed head with light brown papery bracts with dark brown veins.
Preparing and nurturing seeds yields vibrant, transplant-ready blooms.

Some varieties of astrantia are easily grown from seed with a bit of advance preparation. Astrantia seeds need to be cold-stratified for at least eight weeks before they will germinate properly. You can either sow them directly outside in the fall and allow them to overwinter in natural conditions or store them in your freezer for a couple of months and sow them outside in the spring. 

After a period of winter cold stratification, you’ll need to keep the seeds moist until they germinate. When the weather starts to warm in the spring, make note of the patch where you planted your astrantia seeds and water it regularly to keep the seeds and soil surface moist. The germinating seeds and young seedlings are very sensitive to drying out.

As your young seedlings grow and develop, thin them to approximate one plant per square foot. You can carefully dig and transplant any of these seedlings to new locations or transfer them to individual pots and pass them along to a gardening friend or neighbor.

Division

Displaying deeply lobed, palmate leaves, Astrantia plants produce intricate, white-green petal-like flowers nestled within papery bracts.
Easily multiply your garden’s beauty through simple spring division.

If you already have a mature clump of astrantia, the quickest and easiest way to propagate your plants is by division. Divide your plants in early spring or late fall for best results. Use a sharp spade to dig out a section of roots and stems from a mature clump.

Then, simply transplant the divided cluster to a new location. Fill in any gaps around the roots with fresh soil. Then, water your new plants well to help them recover from transplanting shock.

Transplanting

Astrantia plant presents deeply lobed, palmate leaves of bright green color with a slightly glossy surface.
Ensure successful transplanting by matching ideal conditions and nurturing care.

Whether you are dividing old plants or buying new plants from the garden center, the transplanting method is the same. If you can, time your transplanting for a cool spring or fall day to help minimize stress to your plant. 

Select an ideal site to match astrantia’s preferred growing conditions and prepare a hole for transplanting. Dig the hole just a little bit larger than the pot in which your plant is currently growing. Now is the time to add any soil conditioners, such as organic compost or enriched soil to help improve the soil. 

Carefully remove your astrantia from its pot and transfer it into the hole. Match the current soil level from the pot to the new site and fill in around the roots of your plant with fresh soil. When your plant is settled in its new home, give it a deep watering to help it settle in, and then keep it well-watered for the first week or so.

How to Grow

In favorable climate conditions, astrantia is easy to grow. You will need a mild climate with a partially shaded location and rich, moist soil. 

Sunlight

Close-up of flowering Astrantia plants with deeply divided, palmate leaves and intricate, pinwheel-shaped flowers atop slender stems, under full sun in a garden.
This plant thrives in gentle morning light.

Astrantia likes a lightly shaded location with dappled sunlight or morning sun followed by afternoon shade.  If grown in full sun, they are likely to burn and dry out. If grown in full shade, they will tend not to bloom. Two to four hours of morning sunlight is ideal.

Water

Close-up of a bee pollinating an Astrantia plant which bears intricate star-like pink flowers surrounded by papery bracts, covered with water drops.
Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

These plants require moist soil. As long as your soil retains moisture and your area receives regular rainfall, you shouldn’t need to provide extra watering. Astrantia doesn’t like dry soil, however, so if you aren’t getting regular rainfall, go ahead and water your plants to help keep their roots moist. They can even tolerate occasional standing water.

Soil

Top view of a young Astrantia bush exhibiting deeply divided, palmate leaves of dark green color with slightly jagged edges growing in loose brown soil in the garden.
Ensure rich, organic soil for optimal growth and bloom.

The ideal soil for growing astrantia is organically rich. If your soil isn’t naturally high in organic matter, add some organic compost at the time of planting and work this into your garden area before transplanting. The soil should also be consistently moist and well-drained. 

Climate and Temperature

View of a lush flowering plant Astrantia showing delicate, umbrella-like clusters of tiny, pink, star-shaped flowers, nestled among finely serrated, palmate leaves.
It thrives in cooler climates and is ideal for northern US gardens.

Astrantia grows well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 – 7. It prefers cooler climates with cool summers and does not perform well in long, hot, humid summers. It should grow well in most of the northern United States.

Fertilizing

Close-up of a gardener's hand holding a handful of black organic granular fertilizer in a sunny garden against a blurred background.
For lush growth, consider light fertilizer for nutrient support.

If your soil is naturally rich and high in organic matter, you may not need to add any extra fertilizer. If your plants are looking yellowed, sluggish, and not growing well, or if you have poor-quality soil, apply a light dose of fertilizer in early spring and again in mid-summer. 

Maintenance

Close-up of a gardener's hands in blue patterned gloves pruning a flowering Astrantia plant using green pruning shears in the garden.
Low-maintenance beauty thrives with good garden upkeep practices.

A healthy astrantia is a low-maintenance plant. It appreciates the same good garden maintenance practices that will benefit your entire landscape. Keep your garden free of weeds, check regularly for pests and diseases, and remove dead vegetation each winter. You can add mulch around the roots to help maintain soil moisture.

Garden Design

View of a blooming garden with bright pink clusters of Astrantia plants and rich red and soft pink inflorescences of Astilbe plants blooming in a sunny garden.
Enhance your garden with versatile astrantia, pairing with complementary perennials.

Astrantia is a very rewarding garden plant that can be used in a variety of landscape designs. Since these plants benefit from a bit of shade, combine them with other shade-loving perennials such as hostas, ferns, and astilbe. 

Use it in perennial flower beds, cottage gardens, and along a woodland edge. Place them front and center in your landscape design where they can be seen and appreciated. They make especially attractive plants to include in a showy perennial flower border.

Varieties

There are a great number of spectacular astrantia cultivars. The plants themselves have similar forms but you will find great variation in the shades of pink, purple, magenta, scarlet, and white flowers.

‘Abbey Road’

Astrantia 'Abbey Road' features charming, pale pink flowers nestled within a halo of pink bracts.
‘Abbey Road’ shines with resilient growth and striking violet-pink blooms.

The ‘Abbey Road’ cultivar displays vigorous growth and is noted to be a bit more tolerant of dry soil conditions than many other astrantias. Its deep violet-pink flowers develop on tall stems and are excellent for cutting.

‘Alba’

Astrantia 'Alba' showcases elegant, pure white flowers surrounded by pristine, ivory-colored bracts.
‘Alba’ enchants with large white blooms, perfect for any garden.

This astrantia has beautiful white flowers. The ‘Alba’ flowers are large and primarily white, with green-tipped outer bracts, giving them a slightly bi-colored appearance. ‘Alba’ is readily available in the greenhouse market and would be an excellent plant to complement any other variety.

‘Claret’

Astrantia 'Claret' presents rich, deep red flowers adorned with dark wine-colored bracts.
This variety dazzles with deep burgundy blooms, perfect for arrangements.

‘Claret’ has strikingly beautiful dark burgundy red flowers on long dark-colored stems. Compared with other varieties, ‘Claret’ has some of the darkest, boldest flower color. This cultivar makes excellent cut and dried flowers.

‘Roma’

Astrantia 'Roma' displays captivating, ruby-red flowers encircled by soft pink bracts, creating a striking contrast.
This variety graces gardens with delicate yet sturdy reddish-pink blooms.

‘Roma’ is a cultivar with beautiful reddish-pink flowers. The bracts darken from very pale pink at the center to darker rose at the tips. The antique rose coloration gives these flowers a look of fine delicacy, although they are actually quite sturdy. 

‘Star of Beauty’

Astrantia 'Star of Beauty' dazzles with its enchanting, star-shaped flowers nestled among pale pink bracts, evoking a delicate charm.
This variety captivates with vibrant, attention-grabbing pinkish-purple blooms.

‘Star of Beauty’ has a definite WOW appeal. The bright pinkish-purple bracts have scarlet to magenta-colored central flowers. The bright and bold colors on these blooms are sure to attract plenty of attention!

Common Problems

Astrantia is a generally trouble-free plant. You may occasionally see aphids or slugs feeding on your plants, although these pests rarely cause major damage. 

Aphids

Close-up of a swarm of aphids on a stem, representing small, pear-shaped insects with soft, pale green bodies.
Combat aphids with water sprays or insecticidal soap if necessary.

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on plant juices. They may appear green, yellow, gray, white, or even pink. Aphids typically cluster in large numbers along plant stems and along the veins on the undersides of the leaves. Although aphids are small, you can clearly see them. 

If you have large infestations of aphids, you will see the insects themselves. You may also spot the sticky ‘honeydew’ residue that they leave behind while feeding. The honeydew attracts both ants and fungal infections. If aphids feed long enough, you’ll notice your plants may look weak, yellow, or wilting. 

A few aphids on the leaves of your plants won’t cause any significant damage. Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings love to eat aphids. You can safely remove aphids by spraying them with a strong spray of water from your hose. Large and bothersome infestations can be controlled by using insecticidal soap, but be aware that this will harm beneficial insects as well. 

Slugs

Close-up of a slug, a slimy, elongated gastropod with a soft dark brown body, crawling along the soil in a garden.
Manage slugs by removing hiding spots and using beer traps.

Slugs are common garden pests that typically come out to feed at night. These shell-less mollusks feed on tender green leaves, fruits, vegetables, and decaying vegetation. They hide under leaves, rocks, and logs during the day.

Even though you may never see the slugs that are eating your plants, you’ll see the evidence they leave behind. Slugs will eat smooth-edged holes in the leaves of plants. You can tell slugs are around because you will also see their telltale shiny slime trails whenever they come out of hiding.

Slugs can be difficult to control. One of the first things to do is remove their favorite hiding places, such as unused containers, boards, and flat stones. You can also discourage slugs by creating good air circulation around your plants. Set out flat boards to lure slugs and then remove them each morning. You can also try beer traps to effectively remove slugs from your garden area.

Final Thoughts

If you need a dash of color, a hardy border perennial, a pretty flower to tolerate a shaded plot, or are looking for a new addition to your cutting garden, look no further than an astrantia. This versatile plant has many uses in the landscape. It can be an easy space filler or a star attraction. Astrantias are attractive, well-behaved, and compact plants. Their beautiful flowers have a long blooming season, so you will have plenty of time to enjoy their subtle charm.

SHARE THIS POST
June flowers. Helenium plants exhibit robust stems and elongated leaves, providing a verdant backdrop to their striking, daisy-like flowers characterized by prominent cone-shaped centers and bright red petals shining under full sun in the garden.

Flowers

21 Flowers to Plant in June

With summer on the horizon, the warming temperatures and lengthening days make June the perfect month to plant warm-season flowers. In this article, garden expert Katherine Rowe explores favorite heat-loving annuals and perennials to plant in June.

A close-up reveals butterfly bush branches adorned with purple flower clusters, accompanied by vibrant green leaves, set against a backdrop of lush, blurred grasses, highlighting the plant's natural beauty and delicate features.

Flowers

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Plant Butterfly Bush

The beauty of buddleia is alluring for gardeners who love flowers and butterflies, but this invasive bush may actually have a negative impact on your garden and the surrounding ecology. Garden expert Logan Hailey explains why.

Vibrant snapdragons in shades of pink, yellow, and white, soaking up the sunlight with their delicate petals and vivid colors, creating a picturesque scene in the garden.

Flowers

21 Deer-Resistant Annuals for Your Flower Garden

Many of us welcome local wildlife into our rich garden ecosystems. Deer, however, can devour annual plantings in a single sweep. Protect your colorful display, labor, and investment by selecting plants with qualities that deer find distasteful. While no plant is deer-proof, gardening expert Katherine Rowe reviews top-performing annuals with deer-resistant characteristics for an all-season show.

Vibrant flowers bloom in a compact raised bed, their petals bursting with colors, complemented by lush green foliage. Surrounding this floral oasis, other raised beds thrive with verdant plants, creating a lively and harmonious garden scene.

Flowers

9 Tips For Growing a Cutting Garden in Raised Beds

Whether small or large scale, cutting gardens delight the grower with bundles of color, fragrance, form, and texture for floral arranging throughout the growing season. Growing cut flower gardens in raised beds sets the stage for flourishing, productive plants. Join gardening expert Katherine Rowe for tips on producing a bounty of blooms in raised beds.