Abelia is a genus of around 30 flowering shrubs and hybrids in the honeysuckle family. Now renamed and split between four genera, including Zabelia and Linnaea, varieties typically stand between three and six feet in height in adulthood. They are often still referred to as "abelia" in the gardening and landscaping communities.
Taxonomy aside, abelia are known for their abundant white with pink-tinged flowers, hardy, elegantly curved branches, and a blooming period that extends from late spring into early autumn (June through October). The many species and hybrids under the name are semi-evergreen varieties, all of which originated in eastern Asia.
Of special interest to flower aficionados is the Glossy Abelia, a hybrid of A. chinensis and A. uniflora whose taxonomic name is Abelia × grandiflora (literally "large flowered abelia"). The shrub has long been a prized addition to lawns and gardens throughout the more temperate regions of the world.
The Glossy Abelia: Fast Facts
Achillea millefolium ‘Paprika’ (Yarrow ‘Paprika)
Why Is the Glossy Abelia Sought After?
Hardy, versatile, and beautiful, Glossy Abelia grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 and 9. Its bell-shaped white flowers are about 3/4 inches long. They bloom unevenly along the shrub's newest branches. The plant also sports dark green, ovular leaves around 1.25 inches long.
Glossy Abelia is a low-maintenance plant that needs only a medium amount of water to thrive. It has a strong fragrance similar to that of the honeysuckle, which is pungent and thick with honey and citrus notes. Blooms tend to last longer than on other shrubs.
Its lush leaves will thrive even in full shade, though you need to give it plenty of sun if you want it to flower. It can easily be utilized as a low screen in gardens or to shore up hills and prevent erosion. It's growth rate is medium-fast at between 13 and 24 inches per year.
Where Did Glossy Abelia Come From?
The abelia shrub (specifically, A. chinensis, now called Linnaea chinensis) is named after naturalist Charles Abel, who first encountered it in China in 1816. He attempted to bring several plants and seeds back to England, but the samples were lost in a shipwreck. It was finally brought to England by Scottish botanist Robert Fortune in 1844.
Several more species of the plant were discovered and imported to England up until 1877. Finding it to be hardy and subject to few diseases and pests, it spread throughout the UK and then America in decorative gardens where honeysuckle was largely unavailable or considered too invasive to manage.
From its earliest use, the various species of abelia and honeysuckle have been employed as border and foundation plants to cover unsightly walls and fences. In cooler climates, it requires pruning in the winter, while it can be trimmed into a more traditional hedge shape in warmer climes.
Dutch botanist Maarten Christenhusz proposed merging the Abelia genus with Linnaea while moving some species into the Zabelia genus in 2013. Since this has become accepted in the scientific community, the Glossy Abelia's formal name has changed from Abelia x grandiflora to Linnaea x grandiflora. This is important because it may be known by just one of these two names by certain sellers.
Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’ (Bugleweed)
What Is the Ideal Climate for Glossy Abelia?
In the United States, the plant thrives best in the moderate climates of Zones 8 and 9. These Hardiness Zones get no colder than 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. This means Glossy Abelia will grow and flower best in the southern United states and most parts of California, including the desert regions.
For more specific locations for Glossy Abelia growth, please see the chart below.
US States and Areas that Include Zones 8 and 9
To give you a better sense of optimal growth zones, understand that Glossy Abelia grows best around the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, which has very mild winters and gets on average about half the snow the rest of the nation receives.
Many sellers will tell you that Glossy Abelia can grow in Hardiness Zones 5 through 7 as well, though their height and flower output is significantly limited. In these zones, they will also require greater pruning in the winter to protect and extend the life of the plant.
With growth potential in USDA Zones 5 through 9, Glossy Abelia may be planted anywhere in the United States except the northernmost parts of the Midwest and new England. Add to this the fact that they may easily be mixed with other shrubs in hedges and along garden borders, and you have a plant that is an excellent balance of beauty, fragrance, vitality, and versatility.
Acanthus Mollis (Bear’s Breech)
Tips for Optimal Growth and Enjoyment
Glossy Abelia works best as a border or hedge plant. It can grow along walls or fences, attaining a rounded silhouette by the time it reaches adulthood. It can be planted with other abelia, with other shrubs like Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri), or with flowers like Cranesbill Geraniums, Firetail Mountain Fleece (Persicaria amplexicaulis), and Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis).
It is important to remember that Glossy Abelia is as wide as it is tall, so it works best as coverage unless you plan to prune more intensively. Regardless, the purpose of pruning should always be to remove old branches and encourage new growth.
The flowers always grow off of new wood, so make sure you prune between the late winter and very early spring. Hard pruning may become necessary in larger plants every 3 to 4 years. Regular, severe pruning and shaping is certainly an option but only recommended in Zones 8 and 9.
If you want the bush to grow, leaf out, and flower to its maximum potential, you will need to avoid major pruning except to remove dead or damaged branches.
You can propagate the shrub using soft wood cuttings in early summer or semi-hard wood cuttings in late summer. Be sure to grow new shoots in medium moisture and well-draining soil. Deep soak the ground when you first plant the shoots.
Water a little more deeply and a bit away from the shrub's base as the roots begin to take hold in the earth. This extends and strengthens the root base and prevents heavy winds from toppling the shrub.
When possible, mix your well-draining soil with organic compost and other natural nutrients. If you choose to fertilize, do so using slow-release tree or shrub fertilizer in either late winter or early spring. Organic plant food is a viable fertilizer alternative.
Where Can You Buy Glossy Abelia?
Glossy Abelia saplings are widely available throughout the United States. Most plant stores and hardware retailers with garden sections carry the shrubs. If you are looking for seeds, they are a little harder to come by. Special seed catalogues and online sources are your best bet if you want to germinate your own plants.
Companies that specialize in shrubs will often have custom cultivars that featuring different flower hues and shades. Before you buy one of these, make sure you understand any special considerations when it comes to climate, planting, and care.