How To Grow And Care For Abelia

This shrub has long been a charmer in Southern gardens.

Abelia (Abelia) is a Southern-favorite plant that belongs to the family Caprifoliaceae. It's a graceful shrub with small, delicate blooms and has long been reliable for borders and shrub plantings. It is also an excellent choice for foundation plantings and hedges if tended to 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 adequate ground cover or plantings for sloping and hilly areas. Still, other gardeners appreciate abelia as a single planting, its foliage and flowers attractive enough to stand alone as a centerpiece. Learn more about abelias below, and consider planting some in your garden this year.

Plant Attributes

Plant Attributes
 Common Name:  Abelia
 Botanical Name:  Abelia
 Family:  Caprifoliaceae
Plant Type:   Perennial, Shrub
 Mature Size:  3-6 ft. tall, 3-6 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure:  Full, Partial
 Soil Type:  Loamy, Moist, Well-drained, Rich
 Soil pH:  Acidic to Neutral (5.0 to 7.5)
 Bloom Time:  Summer, Fall
 Flower Color:  Pink, Yellow, Purple, White
 Hardiness Zones:  Zones 4-11 (USDA)
 Native Area:  Asia

Abelia 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 hearty and reliable planting, abelia requires occasional pruning to keep its shape and ensure it doesn't send stems into tangles. 

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." Plant dwarf varieties in containers and create a beautiful focal point for your landscape.


Abelia grows in full sun and partial shade. The abelia benefits from afternoon shade if planted in an area with the harsh summer heat. Plants with more sun produce more vibrant blooms.


Abelia shrubs thrive in fertile, well-draining soil with access to consistent moisture. Use compost or organic matter to amend the ground so it is nutrient-rich. A slightly acidic to neutral pH is best for the abelia shrubs.


Abelias benefit from consistent watering manually or through rainfall. Once established, the abelia shrub is considered drought-tolerant but still needs regular watering—once or twice weekly—especially in regions with harsh summer climates or prolonged periods of intense heat.

Temperature and Humidity

The abelia shrub tolerates a wide range of temperatures, including short periods of cold -5°F to 0°F. Add organic mulch near the shrub's roots to protect it from prolonged freezing temperatures. Abelia shrubs need moderate humidity. 


Depending on where you plant abelia shrubs, amend the ground throughout the year with organic matter to create consistently fertile and nutrient-rich soil. Before the growing season, add a slow-release fertilizer made for shrubs or woody plants in the spring to help promote growth. 

Types of Abelias

This shrub, a member of the honeysuckle family, has several recognized species and hybrids. Here are a few varieties:

  • Abelia chinensis: An abelia that flowers in a big, beautiful showing, often used as a garden centerpiece or in a big container. It grows five to seven feet tall and wide. Its flowers are white and tinted with pink.
  • Abelia x grandiflora: The glossy abelia is another widespread plant, perhaps the most popular in the South. It grows to eight feet tall and five feet wide with white or pink flowers and leaves that fade to bronze in the fall.
  • Abelia × grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope': An abelia with a pleasant fragrance and striking bright red stems, yellow variegated leaves, and white flowers.
  • Abelia 'Edward Goucher': An evergreen to semi-evergreen, compact plant. It blooms with small, lilac flowers with orange centers.


Pruning abelias is necessary to help retain its graceful shape. Use pruning shears to cut back the main stems to the ground every winter or early spring, which avoids removing new growth. Cutting back the shrub helps to promote healthier, more vigorous stems, creating an arching formation. In addition to yearly pruning, remove dead, diseased, or damaged branches throughout the year. Remove immediately if the abelia variety produces watershoots—thin shoots emerging from the trunk or branches. Depending on the variety, prune after flowering if the shrub blooms on old wood.

Propagating Abelia

Propagate abelia using softwood cuttings in early summer or semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer—Take cuttings from mid-July to early fall. Here's how to propagate abelia plants:

  1. Select a branch at least six inches long from a healthy plant and without flower buds using pruning shears. Cut below a leaf node in the early morning so that the plant retains more moisture. 
  2. Remove the lower leaves. If not planting immediately, store cuttings in the refrigerator or other cool area. 
  3. When ready to plant, dip cuttings into a rooting hormone to help promote growth. 
  4. Plant the cutting directly into a container filled with moist, well-draining soil or a mixture of sand, peat, and perlite. Place the container in a warm, shaded area until roots emerge. Keep soil moist. 
  5. Place a plastic bag over the entire container to promote humidity if necessary. 
  6. Roots will emerge in one to two months and be ready to transplant. 

How to Grow Abelia From Seed

Depending on the variety, some abelia shrubs can't be grown from seed, such as the glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora). Propagating abelia shrubs from seeds will not reproduce the parent plants, so using cuttings for a replica is best. Growing abelia from seeds will produce new growth, but the scent, blooms, and color may differ. After collecting or purchasing seeds, here is how to grow abelia shrubs: 

  1. Choose a sunny location with organically rich, moist, and well-draining soil, or fill a container with potting soil. 
  2. Add seeds and press them into the soil so they are covered completely. 
  3. Keep the soil moist using a spray bottle. Don't oversaturate seeds, and make sure they receive enough daily sunlight. 
  4. In a few weeks, seeds will germinate, and seedlings will emerge. 
  5. If growing in a container, transplant seedlings to their final location after the last frost or continue care for outdoor plants.


Abelia shrubs' winter care depends on the growing environment and placement. If grown in a container in a colder region, protect the plant by moving it indoors before the first frost. If growing outdoors, adding a one-to-two-inch layer of organic mulch or compost near the shrub's roots will help it retain heat and moisture throughout the winter. Prune after the plant goes dormant if necessary.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Growing abelia in optimal environments will help prevent diseases or pests from becoming a problem. These shrubs are relatively deer-resistant and are occasionally susceptible to aphids. Remove pests using a garden hose or an insecticide if the problem persists. 

Abelia might encounter powdery mildew, anthracnose, and other fungal diseases if the shrubs do not receive proper care. Anthracnose usually occurs when shrubs are overwatered and powdery mildew is present in plants that do not receive enough air circulation or sun exposure. Fungicides can help prevent diseases from spreading throughout the shrub, but preventative maintenance is the best way to care for abelia. 

How to Get Abelia to Bloom

Maintain proper sun exposure, air circulation, and well-draining soil for abelia to bloom. Deadheading spent flowers encourages more buds and flowers. Additionally, lightly prune damaged or diseased branches, but only after the shrub is dormant in the winter. Never remove new wood with flower buds, as this will prevent shrubs from flowering. If abelia is still not blooming, check the fertilizer you use to make sure it does not contain too much nitrogen, as this inhibits flower growth.

Common Problems With Abelia

Abelia is a relatively carefree shrub but can still suffer from specific diseases or a lack of maintenance. Here are some issues to know about when caring for abelia shrubs:

Leaves Turning Yellow

Yellowing leaves typically signify too much or too light water. Oversaturating the soil can cause root rot to develop, which is when a fungus is present in the soil. Foliage will turn yellow and wilt, starting with the base of the stems, and eventually work its way throughout the plant if not stopped. If root rot spreads, gently dig up the plant to transplant it in a new location. Use sterilized garden equipment to avoid spreading this soil-borne disease to the new site.

Leaves Turning Black/Brown 

Another disease that impacts abelia is leaf spots. A fungus or bacteria causes the shrub's foliage to have a yellow-edge appearance with brown or black spots or patches. Brown leaves are also a symptom of too much sun exposure, but to remove leaf spots from spreading to other areas, use a sterilized garden tool to remove infected leaves. Ensure foliage is dry when removing damaged leaves, and keep the plant's surrounding area clean. If the problem persists, use a fungicide to help manage the disease. 

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