Abelia: A Workhorse of a Shrub

Abelia is an old-fashioned shrub hat is generally maintenance free.  As I drive to work, I see 4 f00t tall hedges of them on the median strip in Rockville, Maryland. They are workhorses, able to live on a median strip despite heat, cars, and exhaust fumes.

They are considered “old-fashioned” shrubs and truly the old fashioned ones were about 6 feet tall with green leaves and small flowers. Now however there are so many new cultivars. This woody shrub is available in compact sizes and in a wide spectrum of foliage color from variegated green and cream or green and yellow or even red, bronze, and orange. Sometimes the new growth is a different color than the old growth.

A member of the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, abelia has sweetly scented, funnel-shaped flowers in yellow, white or pink colors that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and pollinators. The shrubs bloom from spring to late fall.

Abelia plants are deer resistant with minimal pest and disease issues. They are “semi evergreen,” which means they will drop leaves in areas such as ours with cold winters but will retain leaves in the south. Hardy to Zone 4, they are drought tolerant when established.

The shrubs are ideal for borders, foundations, screens, and hedges, and yes, even media strips. They are also good for erosion control on banks and slopes.

If you visit your local nursery, you can probably see them blooming. Select the type you like. You can still plant shrubs in the garden now while the soil is warm. Water well to get the plant established before winter. Check out the new abelia varieties — they have come a long way since your grandmother grew them in her garden!




3 responses to “Abelia: A Workhorse of a Shrub

  1. Where space allows, common abelia is best in its natural flaring form. Old canes need to be removed every few years or so. Hedges are nice also, but need proper maintenance. I rarely see them shorn properly though. Modern cultivars are quite wimpy. They could probably be nice as small shrubbery, but may require more regular grooming.

  2. I love the modern cultivars. Sweet Emotion Abelia has an impressive spring bloom with orange-red fall foliage. In fact, we have a few new compact cultivars that are being bred for foliage interest alone. Funshine Abelia has lime green foliage, and there are two brand new Proven Winners varieties with variegated foliage. There are some beautiful new cultivars in our Abelia stable! Tony and Peg, reach out if you’d like to give them a try!

    • Thank you for the offer, yes there are beautiful new cultivars available on the Proven Winners website, just put abelia in the search box.

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