Abelias are Great Landscape Plants
Even though Abelias are not as showy as many other flowering shrubs, they are one of our favorites. Here’s why.
Abelias have arching branches with glossy leaves that add a graceful texture to any landscape. Bell-shaped flowers appear in clusters. The flowers are very fragrant, and butterflies love them. As each flower fades a bright pink sepal appears, adding to the colorful effect. The shrubs bloom continuously from late spring to frost. Foliage has a bronze hue in fall. At an elevation of 3,000 feet they are semi-evergreen, providing plenty of winter interest. Disease and insect problems are rare.
Two cultivars are common in the mountains, and we have both in our home landscape. Glossy Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) grows to 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide with off-white flowers. It will lose most of its leaves below about 15 degrees, but the plant is hardy to below zero. Glossy Abelia is an excellent screening plant.
'Edward Goucher' (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Edward Goucher’) is more compact than Glossy Abelia, growing to 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. Leaves are a lighter shade of green, but the pink flowers are showier.
Both Glossy Abelia and ‘Edward Goucher’ are hardy to USDA Zone 6.
Use abelias singly or in groups as accents, in shrub borders, as traditional hedges, or to define outdoor rooms. They will grow in partial shade, but have better foliage density in full sun. Once established, abelias are drought tolerant.
If you wish to keep their natural vase-shaped habit, cut older stems to the ground in late winter or spring. Or you can trim to any desired shape. Flowers appear on new wood, so even if you prune aggressively during the season you’ll still get a reasonable floral display. Don’t prune after mid-summer, though, or tender new growth might not have a chance to mature before winter.
When planting abelias or other shrubs, dig a hole at least twice the diameter of the root ball, then use a garden fork to break up the soil in the bottom of the hole. Position the plant so that the soil level is the same as in the nursery container, and add the soil from the hole back around the root ball. Don’t add fertilizer to the hole as this might burn tender roots.
Keep mulch a few inches away from the plant’s stems. Water deeply each week for the first year or two until a good root system is established. Fertilize in spring for the first couple of years with a complete fertilizer (like 10-10-10), and thereafter only as indicated by a soil test.
A good place to look for abelias is landscaped highway islands and medians. If NCDOT likes them, you know they are rugged plants.
Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575. © 2012 NC State University.