This old-fashioned favorite has renewed popularity due to its more compact selections, deer resistance, and abundant blooms that attract butterflies. The graceful, arching branches are densely set with oval, glossy, - to 1-inch-long leaves that emerge a handsome bronze and then turn green. Tubular or bell-shaped blossoms cluster among the leaves or at ends of branches, typically from spring until fall.
To retain abelia's naturally graceful shape, use hand pruners to cut a few of the main stems to the ground each winter or early spring. This produces more of the vigorous, arching stems that create the plant's pleasing form. Do not shear.
Include abelias in shrub borders, or use them as foundation plantings or informal hedges and screens. Low-growing kinds are useful for slopes and as ground cover. A. chinensis is showy enough in flower to be used as a specimen plant, either in the garden or in a large container.
A. chinensis. CHINESE ABELIA. Semievergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Chinese native growing to 57 ft. tall and wide, with showy, fragrant, pink-tinted white flowers clustered at the ends of the branches from early summer until frost. 'Ruby Anniversary' has foliage that is darker and thicker.
A. 'Edward Goucher'. Evergreen to semievergreen. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Resembles A. x grandiflora but is less hardy, lacier, and more compact, to 35 ft. tall and wide. Bears small, lilac-pink flowers with orange throats.
A. floribunda. MEXICAN ABELIA. Evergreen. Zones LS (protected), CS; USDA 8-9. Native to Mexico. Usually 36 ft. tall; some- times up to 10 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide. Arching, reddish, downy or hairy stems. Pendulous reddish purple flowers appear singly or in clusters. Heaviest bloom is in summer, with sporadic bloom during rest of year. Needs partial shade in hottest climates.
A. x grandiflora. GLOSSY ABELIA. Evergreen to semievergreen. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. This cross between two Chinese species is the best known and most popular of the abelias. To 8 ft. or taller, spreading to 5 ft. or wider. Flowers white or faintly tinged pink. Leaves may take on bronzy tints in fall. Loses most of its leaves at 15F. Freezes to the ground at 0F but usually recovers to bloom the same year, making a graceful border plant 1015 in. high. The following are among the selections grown.
'Bronze Anniversary'. Mounding form to 34 ft. tall and wide. Leaves emerge bronze and then fade to a showy golden lime-green for the remainder of the season. White flowers continue all summer.
'Canyon Creek'. Showy bronze foliage in spring and fall, turning green in summer. Grows 46 ft. tall and wide. Fragrant pink flowers.
'Francis Mason'. Compact, to 34 ft. high and wide and densely branched, with pink flowers and yellow-variegated leaves.
'Golden Fleece'. Compact mound growing 45 ft. tall and wide. Bronze new leaves turn yellow and then light green. Fragrant, pale pink flowers.
'John Creech'. Dense mound to 4 ft. tall and wide, with dark green foliage and white flowers.
'Kaleidoscope'. Compact, 23 ft. tall, 34 feet wide, with bright red stems. Yellow variegated leaves pick up orange and red tones in fall. White flowers.
'Little Richard'. Dense and compact growth 23 ft. high and wide. Shiny dark green leaves that hold on for a long time even in cold winters. White flowers.
'Prostrata'. Low grower, 12 ft. tall, spreading 45 ft. wide, useful as ground cover, bank planting, or foreground shrub. White flowers.
'Rose Creek'. Compact, growing 23 ft. tall and wide with dark green leaves. White flowers.
'Sherwoodii'. Dense, compact, refined growth to 34 ft. tall, 5 ft. wide. Pale lavender-pink flowers.
'Sunrise'. Densely branched, 36 ft. tall and wide, with gold-edged green leaves that turn red and purple in fall. White flowers.
A. mosanensis. FRAGRANT ABELIA. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Korean native to 56 ft. high and wide. Rich pink buds opening to sweet-scented white flowers. Blooms in late spring, early summer. Foliage turns orange-red in autumn.