Abelia is a previously recognized genus that contained about 30 species and hybrids, placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae. Molecular phylogenetic studies showed that the genus was not monophyletic, and in 2013, Maarten Christenhusz proposed the merger of Abelia into Linnaea, along with some other genera. Abelia section Zabelia was raised to the genus Zabelia. Abelia plants are flowering shrubs that are native to eastern Asian and northern Mexico.
For shrubs commonly known as abelia, there are several common identifiers. These shrubs produce pointed, oval-shaped leaves that are often yellow or green with pink, orange, bronze, or burgundy details. Some are multi-colored or variegated and even change color as the seasons change. Their flowers are tubular and are often seen in white, pink, or yellow. Unlike many flowering plants, abelia shrubs have a long blooming season that extends from spring until fall.
Table of Contents
2 - 10 feet
2 - 8 feet
5.0 - 7.5
Types of Abelia
Glossy abelia (Abelia × grandiflora): Also called Linnaea × grandiflora, this abelia features white flowers and glossy-green leaves. It is a cross between A. chinensis and A. uniflora, and is a popular choice for gardens due to its long bloom season from June to October.
‘Kaleidoscope’ abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘kaleidoscope’): This abelia features white flowers and is known for its eye-catching, confetti-like leaves that change dramatically from golden yellows in the spring and late summer, to oranges and reds in the fall.
‘Rose Creek’ abelia (Abelia x chinensis): This abelia features glossy leaves that turn bronze in the fall, fragrant flowers that change from pinkish to white, and dark crimson branches.
‘Canyon Creek’ abelia (Abelia x ‘Canyon Creek’): This abelia features lilac-pink flowers and glossy, dark green leaves that turn a bright, bronzy red in the fall.
‘Edward Goucher’ abelia (Abelia x ‘Edward Goucher’): This abelia features purplish-white flowers with variegated foliage that is edged with bronze in the fall.
Sweet abelia (Abelia mosanensis): This abelia features flowers that grow as pink buds and change into a bluish-white color. The flowers have a fragrance similar to jasmine.
The best time to plant abelias is during the early spring, early summer, or when temperatures are mild. Once you’re ready to plant your abelias:
Choose and prepare the area. Abelias prefer full sun or partial shade areas. They will grow best in soil that is slightly acidic and drains well. You can also add organic compost or mulch to increase the acidity in the soil.
Dig a hole as deep as the roots and twice as wide. When you place the abelia in the hole, the tops of the roots should only be slightly above the soil.
Prepare the plant's roots. Remove the plant and very gently tease out the roots. Be careful not to damage the roots during this process.
Plant the abelia. With your abelia placed in the ground, fill in the hole and tamp down the soil. Water so that the plant has moist soil but the area is not drenched.
How to Grow Abelia From Seed
Abelia can also be grown from seeds, but it is important to know that collected seeds will produce plants that differ from the parent plant. Some varieties, such as the glossy abelia, are sterile and do not produce seeds at all. To get an identical copy of the parent plant, cuttings must be taken. If a plant with slightly different blooms, scent, or color doesn’t bother you, growing abelia plants from seeds is a rewarding process. You will need a sunny location, moist, rich soil, and small pots if you wish to start them indoors. To grow them indoors, follow these instructions:
Fill small pots with rich, moist, and well-draining soil.
Plant a few seeds in each pot, gently pressing them onto the soil.
Place the pots in a sunny, warm location and keep the soil damp.
Germination should occur in a few weeks.
Once the seedlings are several inches tall, harden them off outdoors until they are ready to be planted in the garden.
To start abelia seeds outdoors, follow these instructions:
Choose a sunny location in your garden. Scatter the seeds on rich, moist, and well-draining soil in the spring when the threat of frost is gone. It may be best to amend the soil with compost before planting, depending on your soil.
Keep the soil moist, watering regularly.
Germination should occur in a few weeks.
How to Get Abelia to Bloom
Abelia shrubs are known for their very long-lasting tubular flowers that appear in spring and last until fall. These small flowers are a couple of inches long and sport 4 or 5 petals each. They are seen in white, pink, or yellow, and attract pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds. They have a pleasant fragrance.
These shrubs generally bloom without a problem. You can encourage a healthy bloom by making sure the soil drains well and the plant receives plenty of sunshine. Be sure to prune lightly, as over-pruning can hinder flower production.
Abelia can be grown in both full sun and partial shade. However, planting them in an area with full sun will encourage more vibrant foliage colors and a healthy bloom. Plants grown in areas with intense summer heat will benefit from some afternoon shade.
Although abelia plants thrive in fertile, well-draining, and moist soil, they are tolerant of different soil conditions. Amending the soil with compost before planting is recommended, as these plants do best in soil that is rich in organic matter. Soil pH levels should be slightly acidic for optimal growth.
These low-maintenance plants are drought tolerant once established. However, they do best when provided with regular watering. Especially during the hotter summer months, you should plan to water abelias once or twice a week to keep them vibrant and healthy. Allow the soil to begin drying before watering again. Watering deeply and infrequently is better for abelias than watering lightly and regularly.
Temperature and Humidity
Abelia plants can be grown in a wide range of climates. The preferred growing zones depend on the specific needs of each variety.
Abelia shrubs benefit from soil that is rich in organic matter. Add compost yearly to provide needed nutrients and to support proper soil drainage. Additionally, providing the plant with a slow-release shrub fertilizer in the early spring will give abelias the boost they need for another year of growth.
Pruning and Propagating Abelia
Occasional pruning will help keep abelia shrubs looking clean and growing strong. It is best to prune in late winter or early spring to avoid pruning off new growth or flower buds. Remove any damaged or dead branches and prune the plant to your desired shape. Take no more than about one-third of the shrub. Certain varieties produce long, thin shoots from the trunk or branches that can be removed for a cleaner appearance. Other varieties bloom on old wood, making it best to prune after flowering.
Propagating abelia can be done through cuttings, both hardwood and softwood. Though hardwood cuttings are often hardier than softwood, they do not root as easily as softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings are taken in the spring while hardwood cuttings are taken in the fall. Both are cared for in the same way. To grow either option, you will need sharp snips, a small pot, well-draining, rich soil, and rooting hormone. Then follow these steps:
Using sharp snips, cut a small branch that is around 6 inches long. Cut below a node.
Remove any lower leaves.
Dip the cut end into root hormone, then gently plant it into well-draining, rich soil.
Place the pot in a warm, sunny area. Keep the soil moist.
Roots should form in around one to two months.
Potting and Repotting Abelia
Some abelias can grow to be quite tall while others stay compact. Small varieties, such as dwarf varieties, make perfect plants for container gardens. Be sure to choose a pot with proper drainage holes before planting an abelia. It is best to choose a pot that will allow the plant to comfortably grow for a few years before needing to be replanted. To do this, get a container that is around 8 inches or so larger than the root system. Then add plenty of compost-rich soil, keep it moist, and place the pot in a sunny location. If the plant outgrows its container, gently loosen the roots by tipping the plant on its side and tapping all around the container. Slide the root system out of the pot and plant it in a new pot that provides a few inches of extra space on all sides. Fill it with rich soil and water thoroughly.
When grown in their appropriate zones, abelias do not require extra care to survive the winter. However, container-grown plants in cold-weather climates may need extra protection from the elements and should be moved to a protected area, such as a greenhouse or indoors.
Pest and Diseases Problems
Abelia exhibits no serious pest or disease problems, and is very resistant to deer. It also tolerates air pollution.
Common Problems With Abelia
Abelias are famous for their ease of care and generally problem-free gardening experience. Still, problems may occasionally appear when growing these low-maintenance plants.
Thick foliage and No Flowers
As stated above, abelias often bloom without much coaxing required. However, if you find that an abelia during bloom time has thick, healthy foliage and no blooms, the issue might relate to your choice of fertilizer. Fertilizer with too much nitrogen encourages foliage growth rather than flower production. Switch to a fertilizer with a higher ratio of phosphorus to nitrogen and potassium.
Yellowing Leaves and Sickly Appearance
This is a sign of too much water, often caused by soggy, ill-draining soil. Root rot may be the culprit. If you suspect there is root rot, gently dig up the plant and cut away any infected roots or branches. Amend the soil with well-draining material, such as sand and compost, and gently replant the abelia. Allow the soil to begin to dry out before watering again.
Because of their compact shape, abelias are often used as foundation plants. The taller varieties are used for borders or hedges. The dwarf varieties are suitable for containers or massed on slopes for attractive shrubby cover and erosion control. Abelias’ hardiness and adaptability make them a popular choice for commercial landscapes and for demanding environments such as parking lots.