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Tips for Growing Abelia

Written by Stephanie on June 8th, 2017

Abelia (Abelia chinensis) is from central and eastern China.  In fact, it is often referred to as Chinese abelia.  This small shrub has opposite, short-stemmed, oval leaves and masses of small, tubular, white, rose-tinted, fragrant flowers.  This is a late blooming shrub.  Flowers appear in July and last into the fall, so it is good to plant to make sure pollinators have food available all season long.  In cool climates, abelia does best as a wall shrub, protected from cold winds.  In warm climates, it can be used as a specimen plant or as part of a loose hedge. Abelia is a deciduous shrub, so it will lose its leaves in the winter.  However, the sepels around the flowers turn bronze in the fall and give the appearance that the flowers are still there from a distance.

Abelia grows in zone seven to nine and reaches a height of up to eight feet.  It reaches a spread of five feet.  The plant will grow in full sun to part shade.  It is attractive to butterflies.  The adults eat the nectar and the caterpillars eat the leaves.  These pollinators add flashes of color to the shrub.  Abelia is tolerant of deer and rabbits.

Abelia grows in alkaline soils that are well drained.  A simple soil test available from your county Extension agent will tell you the pH of your soil.  It will also tell you what, if anything, you need to do to adjust the pH to successfully grow abelia.  To insure that the place you plant your abelia is well drained, till the earth up to six inches deep.  Spread three inches of compost on the tilled ground.  Till that in well so it is distributed throughout the tilled soil.

Abelia is a member of the honey suckle family and will climb a trellis is given the opportunity.  This plant is usually sold as a small shrub.  To plant the shrub, dig a hole in the tilled soil that is twice as wide as the root ball and half again as deep.  Remove the root ball from the pot.  Place the root ball in the hole with the stem at the same height as it was in the pot.  Spread out the roots.  Fill in the dirt around the roots.  Water the shrub in, adding additional soil as is necessary to keep the stem in the right position.  If you want the plant to grow up a trellis, use string to tie it loosely to the trellis.  Make sure the string is loose enough not to girdle the stem.

This hardy shrub has no significant pests or disease problems.  It should be fertilized in early spring with a balanced shrub fertilizer.  Flowers appear on new growth so prune in early spring.  Abelia should be watered once a week to keep the soil moist but not soggy.  Mulch around the shrub to retain water, keep weeds from competing for nutrients, and keep the roots warm in the winter and cool in the summer.


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