There are 19 types of Abelia, along with many hybrids and cultivars, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The species is a member of the honeysuckle family and is also related to viburnums, another popular flowering shrub. The appearance of these evergreens shrubs varies widely depending on the cultivar, but the care needs are the same regardless of type.
Abelia shrubs in the wild can grow up to 10 feet tall and equally wide, with a rather leggy appearance, according to Oregon State University. In home garden cultivation, however, they are usually pruned to control size and maintain a pleasing, mounded shape. Some varieties have glossy, evergreen leaves, while others are deciduous. The variety 'Plum's Surprise' has leaves that change from green to purple to bright crimson by the fall. Abelia shrubs flower in the spring with long-lasting blooms that can range in color from creamy white to bright pink.
Abelias range widely in their cold-hardiness. Some cultivars, like 'Cloud 99', can survive temperatures as low as 0 degrees F. Others prefer much warmer winters. The popular Abelia x grandiflora grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 9, according to the University of Illinois.
Abelias thrive in locations with well-draining soil and full sunlight. They need at least six hours of sunlight per day minimum to thrive, according to Oregon State University. These plants are drought-tolerant, and rainwater is usually enough to keep them watered, although newly-planted shrubs should be hand-watered for the first few weeks. Fertilize after planting and in late winter each year with a balanced (10-10-10 or 8-8-8) fertilizer. Follow the directions according to the label as per the size and age of your shrub. Prune a third of the canes back in the winter each year, at the base of the shrub, to control for size and shape.
Insects and Diseases
Abelias do not suffer from any serious insect pest problems, according to Mississippi State University. This makes these shrubs a terrific choice for beginning home gardeners or for those who want a low-maintenance plant. In fact, the nectar in the flowers is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds. These plants are also free of serious diseases. Root rot can sometimes be a problem, however, if good cultural practices are not followed. Abelias, like all woody ornamental shrubs, do not like to sit in standing water or consistently wet soil.
'Edward Goucher' is a popular hybrid variety, according to the University of Connecticut. This cultivar features bright, purplish-pink flowers that bloom from June all the way until the first frost of the fall. 'Conti' has variegated leaves that are light green and creamy white. The white color turns pinkish in winter. The flowers are bright white. This cultivar is not cold-hardy and only grows to USDA Zone 7. 'Dwarf Purple' is a small cultivar that reaches a maximum height of only 3 feet. It features evergreen leaves that turn purple in the fall and light pink flowers.
- Oregon State University: University of Georgia Researcher Sends New Abelia Plants to Market
- Mississippi State University: Glossy Abelia Deserves Appreciation, Attention
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Germplasm Resources Information Network: Species Records of Abelia
- University of Illinois: Abelia x grandiflora
- University of Connecticut: Abelia x grandiflora
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