Astilbe are perennial plants that revel in moist soil and light shade, although they can be grown in an open, sunny position if well watered. The shiny, compound leaves are quite attractive, with astilbe also bearing tall plumes of soft flowers 20 inches or more tall, in shades of pink, red, mauve, or white. They look best when mass-planted, and are ideal for surrounding ponds, or naturalizing in a wild garden. They can be used as cut flowers, but they are probably best left in the yard where their big, theatrical effect can be enjoyed for much longer. They can quickly flag in a heat wave; water at the first sign of wilting. Astilbe are versatile plants, performing equally well in bright sunlight and dappled shade. The ideal soil is rich organic matter and retains plenty of moisture. Regular, heavy applications of mulch are essential.