I can’t get enough of astrantias. They must be one of the most photogenic plants, certainly in my own garden. They are the sort of plant that draws you in, makes you look at it in closer detail. It is not a bold or brassy plant like some, to really appreciate astrantias take a closer look. It’s only then that you realise what you thought was one flower is actually a flowerhead made up of tiny multiple flowers held on stalks. These umbels are suspended above papery bracts that initially looked like the petals, creating the impression of one larger flower. It’s no wonder that one of the common names for astrantias is hattie’s pincushion, not sure where Hattie comes from but pincushion is just the perfect description for the flower heads.
Astrantias are herbaceous perennials introduced to Britain back in the 1500s they are native to Europe, particularly the Balkans area, where they favour moist soil and dappled shade and can often be found in woodlands. Fully hardy, their leaves first start to appear in March. Glossy green, palmate leaves with serrated edges that are similar to those of hellebores they make an interesting feature in the border. Astrantias are also one of the longest flowering of all the herbaceous perennials with the first flowers appearing in late May and the plant still blooming in October. It’s worth removing faded blooms to prolong the season and to control self seeding. If the conditions are right astrantias will happily pop up all over your borders and it’s the best way to propagate plants as they don’t like root disturbance and can take a while to recover from division. Sow fresh seed onto the surface of a compost filled seed tray, cover with grit and keep moist. Some may germinate quickly but if not leave the seeds over winter and in spring new plants should emerge.
It’s believed that the name astrantia derives either from the Greek aster referring to the plant’s starry shaped flowerheads or from the Latin magistrantia meaning masterwort. Astrantias are also known as Great Masterwort or, much more obscurely, melancholy gentleman.
I have 3 varieties; Astrantia major with white and green bracts, Astrantia major var. rosea with its pink tinged bracts and ‘Ruby Wedding’, a beautiful crimson red colour. The red varieties need a little bit more sun for the true colour to show through and seem to be able to cope with slightly drier soils but the others need moist conditions and dappled shade replicating their native environment. Not only are astrantias such a great addition to a garden, they make great cut flowers, lasting well in water and allowing you to appreciate the detail of their flowers up close.
For a wide selection of astrantias try Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, Crocus or Beth Chatto’s Plant Nursery.
I like astrantias but I don’t have any in my garden. i did make a purchase of one on an outing last year, but I kept it in it’s pot and lost it over winter, such a shame. I’ll have to replace it I think.
I agree, Astrantia are super plants, havn’t yet got Ruby Wedding, must buy it soon as our ruby wedding was 6 yrs ago!! I find them so useful for shady places, not much will flower once the leaves come on the trees.
Astrantia is gorgeous I would like a field of it to pick for the house.
Another astrantia fan here too. I have recently bought ‘Gill Richardson’ which I think knocks spots off both ‘Ruby Wedding’ and ‘Hadspen Blood’ – huge deep red flowers! I think that you would also like astrantia maxima WW. Have not had any problems dividing them but perhaps I’ve just been lucky 🙂
David Marsden said:
Embarrassingly not a plant I know – though I was smitten by the one (Celeste, I think) on Gardeners World last night. D
I’m a fan too. i find them difficult to establish, so it takes a while to get a reasonable sized plant, so I’m going to order some seed!
A lovely plant but like Jo I don’t grow any. Maybe next year…! xx
Donna@Gardens Eye View said:
You have captured their beauty and they are so lovely. I have some and they seem to love where I have them. I really enjoyed this post!!
Caro (urbanvegpatch) said:
Coincidence or what? A week ago, I couldn’t have told you the name of this plant but I’ve come across it several times today and got given a little bouquet with it in for babysitting on Friday. Such a relief to know what it is and, even better, you’ve linked to a supplier. I really want to grow this flower, it’s just so fab. The photos are stunning – I accidentally clicked through to the large size of one of them, gorgeous!!
I love astrantias; we have three young ones in the garden, one has yet to flower, the lovely dark red Venice is just pushing up its first flower, while an unnamed white one has been flowering for weeks. At the weekend, I also added the lovely Star of Beauty which I picked up at an unusual plant fair.
You’re right these are beautiful plants; sadly I don’t have anywhere suitable for them. Christina
Holly Richardson said:
My mum is GIll Richardson that bred astrantia Gill Richardson
how amazing. I love them, had two in my garden at the beginning of the summer and have now bought three more. I would love to know how best to collect the seed. can anyone help If I pick the flowers will it continue to flower? I would also love to know how to get the Astrantia Gill Richarson. Havent ever seen it.
lovely post thank you for lots of information, and its so good to know I’m not the only enthusiast for these beautiful plants.
Dead heading will help to promote new flowers and stop the plant looking scruffy. They should be setting seed in the coming weeks. You could put a paper bag over the flowers that are fading and secure it with some twine so the seed doesn’t fall to the ground. They are meant to be hard to grow from seed and I think they need a spell of cold weather to germinate. Sow the seed straight away when ‘fresh’ and then leave somewhere shady until next spring and you should get germination. :))
I love these plants. I bought them quite by chance at a chuch fete a few years back. I have the major which reminds me of an edelweiss and a couple of the others. They have formed nice clumps now by self-seeding but they don’t take over like other species can. I have one that starts off almost white then changes to a lilac colour then the outer leaves fall back so it looks like a water lily. They are very hardy as I have a north facing garden that gets no sun at all for most of the winter and they’ve survived the last couple of hard winters with no problem. My all-time favourite plants.