Abelias: An Old Favorite

I was recently exploring the old Roseland Cemetery in Monticello, FL, when I came across a stunning old planting of abelias. The afternoon light filtered through the large hedge, highlighting the various shades of rosy pink and dark green foliage. The fine-textured leaves allowed a soft light through the row of aged plants, and gently arching branches bounced gracefully in the much appreciated, although infrequent, summer breeze. I found these lonely sentinels covered in blooms. Clusters of rich pink color held crisp light pink or clear white trumpet shaped flowers, inevitably seen accompanied by a hungry butterfly or hummingbird investigating the bloom’s rich contents.

Though the grass was cut and the weeds were in check, it was clear the plants in this cemetery weren’t tended to frequently. Only the strongest and most trouble free plants existed there. Boxwoods with oak trees growing out of them, planted by forgetful squirrels, were the primary component of the landscape. With headstones dating to the late 1800s, I’m willing to bet countless azaleas, rose bushes, and any number of other flowering shrubs had been planted on that hallowed ground, yet only the abelias remained to bring colorful cheer to a brutally hot summer day. These plants stood strong after decades with only rain for water, little to no fertilizer, no mulch, and no treatments for pests. The pure beauty of these plants speaks for itself and their robustness makes abelias the perfect plant for your yard.

3 Reasons to Plant Abelias

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Abelias Are Low Maintenance

Abelias are very drought tolerant once established. This means you’d be wise to still water a lot the first year, but from then on, these plants will likely survive on rainfall alone if we aren’t in drought.

Abelias can look great with only one or two trims per year. Cut back long branches early in spring or do any harder trimming at the same time if you desire to maintain a specific size. You can also tip back longer branches in the late summer after blooming has finished to keep a neater looking plant through the winter. Abelias look their best when allowed to grow naturally and show off their gently arching branches, so keep the shears indoors and save the effort.

I’m yet to find any major pest or disease problems on abelias so you can put the sprayer away.

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Abelias Are Versatile

Different abelias grow to varying sizes. Hopley and Kaleidoscope grow only 2ft tall. Rose Creek is a good foundation plant at 2-3ft tall. Larger versions like Canyon Creek and Edward Goucher will hit 5-6ft tall or more if left un-pruned.

Many abelias have variegated leaves that bring extra color to your garden’s palette. Kaleidoscope produces leaves that can be red, pink, yellow, or lime green depending on the season, while Hopley maintains a bright yellow and creamy mix almost year round. Canyon Creek sports beautiful bronze and golden new growth that is most bold in spring but an added bonus on new branches all season long as well.

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Abelias Bloom All Summer

Summer heat is no problem for abelias. When most plants are looking their worst due to summer heat, your new abelias will be pushing out bouquets of blooms. Most abelias bloom for months from the onset of summer until temperatures cool off in the fall.

Even after the real flowers (white or light pink trumpets) have fallen from an abelia, the flower casings called the calyx remain on the plant in clusters and look just like big fluffy groups of pink flowers. These clusters look great in cut flower arrangements.

While abelias will survive in partly shady areas, sunnier spots will yield more blooms. Plant in areas with 4 or more hours of direct sun for good flowering. More sun means more blooms.

If you have a sunny spot in your garden and like colorful flowers, abelias belong in your yard.   Whether you need a border plant or a hedge the knowledgeable staff here at Tallahassee Nurseries can help you pick out the right abelia to make your garden the best it can be. Abelias have been in gardens for over 150 years, proving time and again that they are as reliable as they are gorgeous. I think it’s time you found out how easy gardening beauty can be.

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*This article was written by Jonathan Burns (Tallahassee Nurseries Outdoor Manager, FNGLA Florida Certified Horticulture Professional)

**How to water new plants

Apply at least 1 gallon of water slowly and directly to the root ball every 2 days for the first Spring and Summer. Apply at least 1 gallon of water slowly and directly to the root ball every 4 days for the first Fall and Winter. Only rain over ¼ inch counts as a watering. The second year watering needs will reduce, water when leaves first show signs of wilting.