Weigela is a deciduous perennial shrub grown for its abundance of flowers. Weigela, sometimes known as cardinal shrub or old-fashioned weigela, survives in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9. Used primarily as a foundation plant in landscaping, the new smaller sized varieties also work well in borders. Weigela adapts in many conditions making it easy to grow and maintain.
A native Asian shrub, weigela florida was introduced in Europe by Robert Fortune in 1845 and named for the German botanist C. E. von Weigel. Hybridization began in the 1860s to improve the shrub for garden use. Weigela crossbreeds with relative ease and cultivars available number over 170.
Weigela produces a profusion of red, pink, lavender or white flowers in late spring and early summer on the growth from the previous year. The bell-shaped blooms attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Traditionally with 4-inch-long green leaves, newer cultivars were developed with purple, yellow and variegated foliage to add interest throughout the growing season. Weigela has little problem with insects, but is susceptible to fungal diseases, such as gray mold.
Choose a planting site that receives full sun. Weigela grows in most soils, but performs best in well-drained and fertile conditions. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Place the plant in the hole and position to your liking. Replace about 10% of the soil with compost. Put half of the dirt into the hole and water thoroughly until the soil settles. Finish backfilling. Water again. Add a 3-inch layer of mulch in a 3-foot diameter around the Weigela.
Weigela grows quickly, topping out at 6 to 10 feet. Its spread often exceeds its height. Some newer cultivars, such as Minuet, have smaller sizes, reaching only 30 inches. Though rounded and upright in habit, the branches arch and droop. This presents a somewhat sprawling appearance. Leave plenty of room for the weigela to grow to its full size.
Prune dead branches off the shrub in the spring. Nip off flowers after they die. Cut old stems to the ground. This allows continuous growth. Fertilize in the spring with a 2-inch layer of compost or a commercial fertilizer. Follow the directions on any commercial fertilizer carefully; too much may damage the plant. Refresh mulch yearly, keeping the layer 3 inches thick. Water the plant during times of drought, especially during the heat of the summer.