Sunny Anniversary® (A. xgrandiflora). Photo by Proven Winners.

With today’s busy lifestyles, homeowners are always looking for ways to liven up their landscapes without a lot of effort. Abelia is an ornamental shrub that is under-appreciated and underused in many parts of the country and is worth a second look. Grown for its attractive foliage and exceptionally long bloom time, it is virtually maintenance-free once established. The eye-catching leaves come in many different colors—from gold to burgundy—that often change throughout the growing season. Fragrant tubular flowers bloom for months, making it a nonstop food source for hummingbirds, butterflies and insect pollinators.

Related to honeysuckle, the genus Abelia includes 30 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs that are native to Eastern Asia and Mexico. Glossy abelia (A. xgrandiflora), the most common garden species, produces shiny semi-evergreen leaves in colder zones, while retaining year-round color in warmer regions. Newer hybrids are bred for unique foliage color, showier flowers and compact sizes more suitable to small urban lots.

On this page: The Basics | Planting | Care and Maintenance | Choosing the Right Abelia | Pictures | Landscaping Tips

ABELIA BASICS

Zones:

4 to 11, varies by type

Height/Spread:

Upright arching habit, 2 to 10 feet tall and 2 to 8 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade; foliage color and bloom are best in full sun.

Bloom time:

Spring to fall

Color and characteristics:

Oval, pointed leaves up to two inches long are produced on graceful, arching branches. Foliage is glossy green or yellow, with hints of rose, orange, bronze or burgundy. Some are variegated or multi-colored. Many varieties have leaves that change color as the seasons progress. Tubular flowers with four or five petals form in clusters on the tips of the stems. The small flowers, which are usually fragrant, come in shades of white, pink and yellow. Other attributes include colored sepals and stems, fall color and exfoliating bark.

Toxicity:

Abelia is not known to be toxic to children or pets, and is sometimes used as hedging for pastures.

PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS

When to plant:

Plant during milder months of spring or fall to avoid heat or cold stress.

Where to plant:

Choose a sunny to lightly shaded site with fertile, well-draining soil that will stay evenly moist.

How to plant:

Loosen soil in the planting area and amend with compost. Remove plant from container and gently tease out roots or slice the root ball in several places if potbound. Dig a hole slightly deeper than the root ball and twice as wide. Place the plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is slightly above ground level. Fill in the hole, tamp down soil around the base and water well. Spacing depends on the variety.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE

Ruby Anniversary® (A. chinensis) planted in front of Bobo hydrangea (H. paniculata). Photo by Proven Winners.

Pruning and deadheading:

Abelia looks best when allowed to retain its natural shape and size. Since glossy abelia (A. xgrandiflora) blooms on new wood, prune in late winter to early spring before new growth emerges so that flowers are not sacrificed. Remove any dead or damaged branches, and thin as needed to encourage new shoots. Lightly prune to shape. Some varieties produce long, errant watershoots (thin shoots that grow out of the trunk or branches); cut those out whenever they appear. To reinvigorate your abelia, thin out up to a third of the branches every few years. Deciduous varieties that bloom on old wood (such as A. mosanensis) should be pruned lightly as needed just after flowering.

Soil:

Abelia prefers slightly acidic, organically rich soil that’s kept moderately moist and drains well, but is tolerant of a variety of conditions.

Amendments & fertilizer:

Apply a slow-release fertilizer formulated for woody plants in early spring. Mulch around the root zone with organic matter to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Watering:

Though drought and heat tolerant once established, it performs best with regular watering. Irrigate once or twice a week during summer.

Diseases and pests:

When planted in optimal conditions, abelia exhibits few, if any problems. Possible diseases include powdery mildew and anthracnose. Pests include aphids.

Deer resistance:

Deer will leave it alone for the most part, though extreme conditions can result in deer grazing on plants they wouldn’t otherwise.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT ABELIA

With different sizes and forms to choose from, here are some tips to consider:

For borders and landscapes:

Choose varieties that will fit the scale of your landscape. Use as hedging, screening, in a mixed border, as foundation plantings or a stand-alone focal point. Make sure to allow room for plants to mature without becoming crowded.

For slopes and hillsides:

Select varieties suitable to the size of your property and mass along a slope or hillside for erosion control.

For containers:

Dwarf types will stay small and not overwhelm a space. Use as a stand-alone focal point in a container, or group with other containerized plants for maximum visual impact.

ABELIA PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo: Proven Winners

Funshine®Buy now from Proven Winners
Abelia xgrandiflora

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

Dwarf, compact habit, 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Early summer to early fall

Color:

New leaves emerge with tones of yellow, orange and caramel, with older foliage assuming a chartreuse-green hue. Pale lavender flowers.

Flowers are lightly fragrant. The compact size is ideal for containers, as low hedging, or massed in the landscape.

Photo: Proven Winners

Sunny Anniversary®Buy now from Proven Winners
Abelia xgrandiflora

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

Upright mounding habit, 3 to 4 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Early summer to early fall

Color:

Dark green foliage, flowers are shades of pink and yellow.

The eye-catching pink and yellow blooms represent a unique breakthrough in flower color and form. Use this mid-sized shrub as a striking focal point in the landscape, as hedging, screening or massed plantings.

Photo: Proven Winners

Sweet Emotion®Buy now from Proven Winners
Abelia mosanensis

Zones:

4-8

Height/Spread:

Upright habit, 5 to 6 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Mid to late spring

Color:

Green foliage, orange-red fall color. Pink buds open to white flowers.

One of the hardiest, this deciduous variety blooms on old wood. Prune lightly as needed just after flowering. The glossy green foliage turns fiery orange-red in fall. Plant as hedging along a property border, in a mixed border, or as a specimen plant. Site near your home’s entrance or other trafficked area where the intense jasmine-like fragrance of the flowers can be enjoyed up close.

Photo by Aykut Alakoc / Shutterstock

‘Kaleidoscope’
Abelia xgrandiflora

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

Upright spreading habit, 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring through fall

Color:

New leaves are green with yellow margins that deepen to gold in summer, followed by fiery red and crimson highlights in fall and winter. White flowers are produced on red stems.

Grown for its chameleon-like foliage, ‘Kaleidoscope’ is the longest blooming variety, putting on a year-round show of changing color. The dwarf stature makes this a good choice for small urban yards. Use as a dazzling focal point, massed in the landscape, in containers, or as a foundation planting.

Photo by Tim Ludwig / Millette Photomedia

‘Rose Creek’
Abelia xgrandiflora

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

Compact dense habit, 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring to early fall

Color:

New leaves are green tinged with burgundy, fading to green, transitioning back to burgundy in fall and winter. Purple stems, mauve sepals, white flowers.

Eye-catching color contrast makes this a stunning focal point in the landscape. The spreading habit makes this a good choice as hedging, foundation plantings, or to divide garden rooms.

Photo by Gurcharan Singh / Shutterstock

‘Radiance’
Abelia xgrandiflora

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Mid-summer to early fall

Color:

New leaves are green with pale yellow margins, aging to silver-green edged with cream. White flowers are born on red stems, while the bright foliage lights up partially shaded areas.

Plant as hedging, massed in a landscape, in containers, or as a foundation planting.

Photo by: Tim Ludwig / Millette Photomedia

‘Edward Goucher’
Abelia hybrid

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

Mounding compact habit, 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Mid-summer through mid-fall

Color:

Lavender-pink flowers, red stems and sepals. Green foliage turns bronze in fall. Showy rose-pink flowers contrast dramatically with the burgundy-red sepals and stems.

Blooms on new wood, so prune as needed in late winter or early spring. Plant as screening or as a foundation planting.

Photo by: Marietta Paternoster Garr / Millette Photomedia

‘Canyon Creek’
Abelia xgrandiflora

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

Upright spreading habit, 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Mid-summer to first frost

Color:

New growth is green tinged with copper, turning chartreuse, then green in summer. Fall and winter color is bronze-rose. Darker pink buds open to pinkish-white flowers. The ever-changing foliage and long, late-season bloom makes this a valuable addition to any landscape. Use as a focal point in the landscape, hedging or foundation planting.

Photo by KobJeed / Shutterstock

Twist of Lime™ (syn. ‘Hopley’s)
Abelia xgrandiflora

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

Upright mounding habit, 3 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Mid-summer to fall

Color:

New leaves are green with yellow margins that fade to ivory, pastel pink flowers

The vivid foliage makes this a striking focal point in the landscape. With a spreading habit and medium size, this variety is ideal for hedging, massed in a bed, or as a foundation planting.

LANDSCAPING TIPS

There are many ways to incorporate abelia into your landscape. Here’s how:

  • Plant a hedge along the front of your yard between the lawn and sidewalk as a living fence.
  • Use a medium or larger variety as hedging to break the landscape into individual garden rooms.
  • Plant a dwarf variety in a pot and place on a patio, deck or near your home’s front entrance for a dramatic focal point and up-close fragrance.
  • Use as a background plant to set off flowering annuals and perennials.
  • Site plants near your living room or kitchen window to enjoy hummingbirds and butterflies up close.
  • Plant medium-sized varieties along your home’s foundation where they won’t become overgrown and obstruct window views.
  • Place midway in a border in combination with other complementary shrubs, small trees and perennials.
  • Use a smaller variety as edging along a pathway, as a foundation planting, or a stand-alone accent.
  • Abelia combines well with a wide variety of perennials, trees, shrubs and groundcovers. Plant alongside companions with similar cultivation needs, such as spirea, maiden grass, weigela, phlox or iris.

RELATED:
Shrubs 101
Best Flowering Shrubs for Season-Long Color
Planting Ideas for Your Garden

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