(Masterwort) Among the loveliest border perennials, the distinctive, papery flowers look like small pin cushions. These are carried in upright sprays on wiry, branched stems above a mound of deeply cut leaves. When I started in the nursery trade there were just a few varieties, but as astrantias readily cross-pollinate many new varieties have been introduced over the past 15 to 20 years. Some are very similar, in fact so similar it is difficult to tell the difference.
Left to right: Astrantia 'Buckland', Astrantia major 'Rubra', Astrantria maximia, Astrantia 'Gill Richardson'
Most Astrantias carry the pin-cushion like flowers in sprays on short branches that are produced towards the top of slender stems. The leaves are mid-green and deeply divided, although there are exceptions, the leaves of Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegata' are splashed with cream and the flowers of Astrantia maxima are borne in ones or twos above leaves that are lightly divided into three sections.
Why Grow Astrantia
Astrantia are great for spots in the border that become shady, towards the middle of a big border or the front of a narrow border. These are loved by bees and other flying insects. They also make good cut flowers, but make sure they are placed straight into water or the flowers will droop.
Insects love Astrantia - left to right: Astrantia 'Hadspens Blood' with a Painted Lady butterfly, Honey bee enjoying Astrantia major and a Hover fly on Astrantia maxima
How To Grow Astrantia
Astrantia grow naturally in well-drained soil that remains moist, in a sunny, partial shade, and even fairly shady spots.
How To Care For Astrantia
Cut back the flowers stems back after flowering to prevent the plant seeding around and to encourage more flowers. This is with the exception of Astrantia maxima, with this plant just cut the flower stems as the leaves won't grow. If you leave the seedheads untouched they will remain in a lovely brown shape for several months.
Above: Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated', Astrantia 'Roma', Astrantia major, Astrantia 'Ruby Star'
Astrantias Are Good with
Any perennial that likes a soil that a soil that does not dry out entirely through the summer. I love them with Alchemilla mollis, Campanula persicifolia, Veronicastrum and any mounding perennials.
Top left to right: Astrantia 'Claret' with Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', Astrantia seed heads with grass Anemanthele lessoniana, Astrantia major, Salvia 'Caradonna' and Gillenia trifoliata, Astrantia 'Roma' and Aquilegia vulgaris
Bottom left to right: Left to right: Astrantia major 'Sunningdale' with Geranium nodosum' Clos du Coudray, Astrantia 'Hadspen Blood' with Alchemilla mollis, Astrantia maxima with Campanula persicifolia alba, Astrantia major with Veronicastrum virginicum 'Pink Glow'