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Abelia Shrubs (Abelia spp.)
Abelia shrubs have few rivals in the landscape that can match their versatility and durability. This workhorse in the garden is a go-to landscape plant, which offers even novice gardeners an easy-care alternative to high-maintenance shrubs. As a member of the honeysuckle plant family, Abelias have nodding, bell-shaped flowers, which are produced in profusion over the shrubs. The flowers may be white, pink, raspberry or lavender, depending on cultivar. Regardless of flower color, Abelia has a long blooming season. These shrubs may begin flowering as early as April as they continue to produce flowers that may persist through October in warm climates, or until the first frost nips the blooms. Even Abelia’s foliage covers a wide color spectrum (depending on cultivar), with leaves that may be green, plum, coppery pink, purplish green or even variegated. Depending on your climate and the specific Abelia cultivar, you’ll find evergreen and deciduous types. There’s an Abelia sized to fit any garden, with heights as compact as 2 feet or as tall as 8 feet.
It’s hard to find a shrub for your landscape that is heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, deer-resistant and insect-resistant. But aside from this laundry list of Abelia’s merits, perhaps its highest value in the garden is that of attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. As a veritable magnet for these winged creatures, Abelia shrubs give beauty and motion to the garden when they explode in a flurry of activity from butterflies and hummingbirds that can’t resist its flowers.
- Hedges. Abelia is a superb flowering hedge, but it’s best when used as an “informal” hedge. This means that individual plants look fuller and more graceful if left unpruned. If you try to prune or shear these hedges, they tend to become unattractive over time and they lose their natural beauty. So if you don’t like to prune your shrubs, Abelia is definitely the plant for you.
- Foundation shrubs. Choose a shorter, compact cultivar if you want foundation shrubs; otherwise, the taller Abelia cultivars will quickly cover first-floor windows.
- Erosion control. If you have steep slopes or banks in your yard where the soil erodes after heavy rains, plant Abelia shrubs on the slope to control the erosion.
- Abelia performs best in slightly acidic soils (pH 5.0-6.5).
- Plant Abelia in a place that receives at least 6 hours of sun daily. Abelia shrubs will grow in partial shade, but they won’t bloom as profusely.
- Dig a planting hole that is at least twice as wide and a few inches deeper than the root ball. Carefully spread out the roots and gently back-fill with the soil you removed from the planting hole.
- Keep Abelia shrubs well-watered during their first year after planting so their root systems can get off to a good start.
- Fertilize early in the season before new growth begins in spring/summer with a general purpose fertilizer, according to label directions.
- Water. After their first year of establishment, Abelias typically rely on natural rainfall for sufficient water. In times of severe drought, water the shrubs deeply once a week to moisten the root system.
- Fertilizer. According to label directions, use an all-purpose fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season before new growth begins.
- Pruning. You can allow Abelia to grow naturally, without pruning. If you want to shape your Abelia shrubs, prune 1/3 of the older stems to the ground in late winter or early spring. And if you want to rejuvenate overgrown, leggy shrubs, cut Abelia to knee-height in late winter or early spring.