What To Know About Southern-Favorite Abelia

This shrub has long been a charmer in Southern gardens.

As the opening entry in The New Southern Living Garden Book, abelia is not only alphabetically first in our gardening estimation, but it is also one of our favorite plantings of all time. This Southern-favorite plant belongs to the family Caprifoliaceae. It's a graceful shrub with small, delicate blooms, and it has long been a reliable plant for borders and shrub plantings. It can also be a great choice for foundation plantings and hedges, as long as it is tended appropriately. A hearty shrub, abelia can grow densely enough to become a hedging or screening plant in the yard, a coveted characteristic in Southern landscape design. Some grow low enough to the ground to be effective ground cover or plantings for sloping and hilly areas. Still, other gardeners simply appreciate abelia as a single planting; its foliage, and flowers attractive enough to stand on their own as a centerpiece. Learn more about abelias below, and consider planting some in your garden this year.

About Abelia Shrubs

This shrub can be found throughout the South, and its popularity just grows and grows. The New Southern Living Garden Book describes, "This old-fashioned favorite has renewed popularity due to its more compact selections, deer resistance, and abundant blooms that attract butterflies." It has an attractive form that can grow to be substantial. The Garden Book says, "The graceful, arching branches are densely set with oval, glossy, ½– to 1½-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." Dwarf varieties can be planted in containers, and create a beautiful focal point for your landscape.

Abelia Shrub Care

This plant thrives in the sun with regular water. It can stand up to the heat of the Southern climate, but it does need some care, so be sure that your garden hose can reach your abelia plantings, or fill up your watering can and check in on your growing abelias. Because it is such a hearty and reliable planting, abelia requires occasional pruning to keep its shape and ensure it doesn't send out stems into wonky tangles. The New Southern Living Garden Book recommends, "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."

Abelia Selections

A. chinensis

A. chinensis is a showy abelia. It flowers in a big, beautiful showing, and it's often used as a garden centerpiece or in a big container. It takes to either application and can be counted on to grow 5-7 feet tall and wide. Its flowers are white and tinted with pink.

A. x grandiflora

In addition to A. chinensis, A. x grandiflora, or glossy abelia, is another popular planting, perhaps the most popular planting in the South. It grows to 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide with white or pink flowers and leaves that fade to bronze in the fall.

Mexican Abelias

Another promising option is to decide between the two kinds of Mexican Abelias: the A. Edward Goucher, or the A. floribunda. The A. Edward Goucher is an evergreen to semi-evergreen plant that looks similar to the A. grandiflora, but is less hardy, lacier, and more compact. It can grow up to 35 feet tall and wide and blooms small, lilac flowers with orange centers. With its heaviest blooms in the summer, the A. floribunda is an evergreen shrub that produces striking descending reddish-purple flowers and usually grows about 36 feet tall.

Fragrant Abelias

Looking for an abelia with a pleasant scent? Popular fragrant selections include 'Bronze Anniversary;' 'Canyon Creek,' which has pink flowers; and the compact 'Francis Mason,' 'Golden Fleece,' and 'Kaleidoscope.' The last, 'Kaleidoscope,' is striking with its bright red stems, yellow variegated leaves, and white flowers. A few others to consider are the 'John Creech,' 'Little Richard,' 'Prostrata,' 'Rose Creek,' 'Sherwoodii,' 'Abelia Mosanensis,' or the 'Sunrise'—which lives up to its name with its gold-edged leaves that turn red and purple in autumn.

Do you have any abelias growing in your garden? What's your favorite classic Southern shrub?

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