Abelia is a genus that includes 15-20 evergreen, or semi-evergreen, shrubs native to China, Japan and Mexico. The species generally grown in the garden is a hybrid of species originating in China, namely Abelia grandiflora. It has a roundish habit and some years old specimens reach the height and width of 100-120 cm; the long stems, scarcely branched, are reddish and tend to arch and elongate.
The leaves are oval, indented, small, leathery, of a beautiful dark and glossy green; the new leaves are bronze, and in autumn the whole plant takes on this pleasant color. In summer it produces a profusion of small trumpet-shaped flowers, white-pink in color, which persist until the first colds; the fruit is a woody achene, containing a single seed.
This plant prefers positions in full sun, or in partial shade; it does not fear the cold and develops without problems in the garden in the open ground, even if it prefers positions sheltered from the cold winter winds. It is a rather rustic shrub that is able to adapt to different situations, even if in the case of very harsh climate it is good to think about protecting it.
If desired, you can choose to drastically prune the plant at the base in autumn, to favor a more compact and vigorous development the following spring.
Abelia grandiflora ">Watering
The young plants of this particular variety need regular watering; adult plants, on the other hand, can withstand a few days of drought without problems; in the period from March to October, water sporadically, once a week; with the arrival of cold weather drastically decrease watering, without however suspending it completely, as the abelia is an evergreen plant.
In the vegetative period it can be very useful to provide fertilizer for flowering plants dissolved in the watering water at least once every 15 days.
The abelie they grow without problems in any soil, even in garden soil; but surely a more abundant flowering and a more luxuriant development will occur in soil rich in organic matter and very well drained.
When planting an abelia, remember to prepare a large hole, placing on the bottom some coarse-grained sand, good balanced soil and well-mixed organic fertilizer, in order to favor rapid rooting.
The multiplication of this plant occurs by seed, in spring; the abelia of the genus grandiflora multiply by cutting, taking portions of the stem in spring, which must be rooted in a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts; the new plants must be grown in containers for at least a couple of years before they can be planted.
As for pruning, this is not necessary, you can only resort to a pruning that allows you to eliminate the driest parts; or, in the autumn period, resort to a more drastic pruning to allow the plant to renew itself.
Parasites and diseases
These plants are usually very rustic and are not frequently attacked by parasites or diseases, but they can be affected by aphids; to combat them it is possible to resort to one of the specific products available on the market or to resort to natural methods such as an infusion of garlic soaked in water to spray on the leaves.
Abelia plant, what is the most suitable period?
Usually the abelia is sold in small pots, at any time of the year. As always for shrubs, the months of October and November are the best for planting, but you can also proceed at other times while avoiding the scorching heat and frost. These two situations, added to the stress of the operation, could lead to decay of the plant or significantly slow down its vegetative recovery.
In mountainous areas (with minimum temperatures around -10 ° C) it is recommended to postpone until February: the abelia is very resistant, but not totally rustic and the young plants need some additional attention.
Bare root plants
It is not uncommon, at the end of winter, to find specimens for sale in supermarkets or do it yourself. Often they are bare-rooted seedlings or with a small loaf of earth, recently rooting, very delicate cuttings. Let's buy them only if the branches are very viable and, possibly, as soon as you arrive at the store.
To increase the chances of taking root, we avoid inserting them immediately in the ground: the ideal is to transfer them to small pots and wait until we see the rootlets appear from the drainage holes. At that point the plant will be safer and the subsequent development faster.
How to implant
First of all, put the pot in a bucket with warm water for at least 10 minutes: we will free the roots more easily, without damaging them. In the meantime, let's dig a hole at least 30 cm deep and put a good quantity of pelleted manure or, better, cornunghia on the bottom and cover with a light layer of earth. We insert the plant leaving the collar a little higher than the ground level; we fill with the extracted earth mixed with a substrate for flowering and a little compost. We compact well and distribute at least 6 liters of water, then continuing diligently for at least the first two weeks.
If we want to create a hedge we leave 50 to 100 cm of distance between one plant and another depending on the final size of the specific cultivar.
Abelia maintenance, fertilization
They are quite autonomous plants, but by giving them a little care we will have a more luxuriant and harmonious growth, as well as more abundant blooms.
The abelie to give their best they want a soil rich in nutrients and with good texture. This is achieved by spreading abundant pelleted manure, compost or organic soil conditioner in autumn over the entire area covered by the canopy. At the end of winter we can integrate it with a slow release granular with a high potassium content, as a stimulus for flowering. We follow a light hoeing and abundant irrigation.
A second administration, in June, can be useful, especially in younger specimens, to obtain good vegetative growth in anticipation of the following year.
Pruning of the abelia
The most common abelias are hybrids of the x grandiflora group and in our country they can be deciduous or semi-deciduous depending on the climate. For this type of plants, the ordinary intervention required is minimal; furthermore, by blooming on the branches produced in the previous year, there is a risk of losing the production of buds.
The advice is to intervene at the end of winter, but only to eliminate diseased, crossed or disordered branches. It may happen that, over the years, the specimens become woody at the base: we then operate at the end of flowering with a fairly drastic cut: we will stimulate renewal.
Evergreen species, such as floribunda, sensitive to cold, are grown almost exclusively in the South. Also in this case the interventions, to be done in summer, are minimal: shorten the protruding shoots and eliminate the withered inflorescences.
Variety of Abelia
Only the grandiflora hybrid is widely available on the market, but it is also worth considering other fascinating species, in particular that of Mexican origin, suitable for the milder climate regions of our country.
Usually, being native to the mountainous areas of the Far East, they are suitable for our whole country. However, some hybrids of grandiflora are more delicate and it is good to inquire specifically, especially if we live in high ground.
Abelia chinensis is a medium-sized, deciduous shrub with an expanded shape. The pinkish-white flowers appear in summer and are collected in large apical panicles. The “China rose” cultivar is beautiful, with more rosy, lasting and extremely fragrant corollas.
Abelia x grandiflora vigorous and resistant shrub with dark green, ovate leaves. The flowers, tubular, are apical, collected in panicles and perfumed. There are many cultivars on the market: "Canyon Creek", notable for its new bronze colored leaves, "Francis Mason" with slower growth and golden leaves with green splashes, "Hopley" young green leaves with yellow and then cream margins, "Kaleidoscope ”Leaves with a broad yellow margin which in autumn are colored with warm shades; “Prostrata” dark green and purple foliage in autumn, enlarged habit, maximum 60 cm high; "Sherwood" one meter high, has small leaves, abundant and long-lasting flowering;
Very rustic Abelia 'Edward Goucher', up to 2 meters high, has reddish foliage in spring and abundant lilac-colored flowering.
Abelia mosanensis, a beautiful arched shrub with bright green leaves and very fragrant white flowers, loved by bees. Very rustic
Abelia triflora large shrub with beautiful bark and large dark green leaves. In summer it produces a large amount of small, extremely fragrant white flowers. Very rustic.
Abelia floribunda from Mexico, evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and pendulous red flowers in early summer. It can grow up to 3 meters high and 4 meters wide.
Abelia: Use and combinations of the Abelia
The abelia is suitable for different locations and combinations. Its strength is undoubtedly its robustness and autonomy: after the first rooting period it is the ideal subject for low-maintenance gardens, requiring neither pruning nor frequent irrigation.
We can use it as an isolated specimen, but also, depending on the size of the cultivar, in thickets, in mixed borders or as a background for rock gardens. It is also an excellent element for creating mixed or pure hedges. It goes well with spiree, nandina domestica, osmanthus, cotoneaster and dogwood with colored bark.