MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

June 18, 2014

Abelias offer carefree beauty

— Abelia shrubs, members of the honeysuckle plant family, are staples of gardens in warm climates. While some are hardy in only in zones eight and nine, plenty of them grow well in areas where there are freezing winter temperatures. Gardeners who want carefree beauty either already have or will want to have abelias in the landscape or in containers. They require little care and live for decades.

Plus, plant breeders introduce new ones every year with better growing tolerances, different sizes at maturity, leaf shapes and flower colors. They are a great choice for part-sun locations in shrub borders, informal hedge and foundation plantings where their flowers and scent will be enjoyed.

If you are planting new shrubs, select a location with some wind protection in part-shade. Prune in late-winter but only to maintain shape, remove dead wood or rubbing branches. New shrubs should be thoroughly watered and then soaked once a week during summer, unless it rains an inch. They thrive in average, well-drained soil. Do not fertilize.

These abelias are suited to zone seven or colder areas:

• Chinese abelia (Abelia chinensis) varieties are a standard in butterfly gardens since the flowers last from June to frost. They thrive in moist, acid, well-drained soil with part shade.

• Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora), a relative of Chinese abelia, was introduced 150 years ago and remains one of the most popular shrubs on the market. Some of the standards are: Canyon Creek, Francis Mason, Golden Fleece, Kaleidoscope, Little Richard, Mardi Gras, and Rose Creek.

Each variety of glossy abelia is unique in either flower color, size at maturity or leaf color and shape. For example, Canyon Creek’s leaves are bronze when they first emerge and become gold-yellow. The spring flowers are 2-inches long, tubular-shaped, and pink.

Kaleidoscope, Gold Dust and Canyon Creek are grown for the appeal of their flowers, leaves and graceful arching form.

The leaves of Kaleidoscope (Abelia x grandiflora Kaleidoscope) are soft yellow with green centers in spring, turn gold in summer and become greens, yellows and red-rose in cold weather. The flowers are fragrant and soft white-pink and persist longer than any other abelia. The shrubs grow 2-feet tall and 3 or 4 feet wide and can remain green in mild zone seven winters.

Abelia x grandiflora Twist of Lime and Twist of Orange from Greenleaf Nursery are recent introductions. Twist of Lime has yellow leaves with green centers that mature to ivory and green. The flowers are white-pink from summer to fall. Planted in sun to part-shade in zone six or higher, Twist of Lime slowly matures to a 4-foot tall and wide mound.

Twist of Orange grows the same size but with a twist of red-orange coloring on the leaves and stems. Photos and descriptions of all the Greenleaf Nursery Abelias can be found at http://hort.li /1nTK.

Abelia Bronze Anniversary prefers part-sun. It matures at 3 or 4 feet tall and wide with white flowers. The leaves are bronze-orange in the spring and mature to lime-gold. The springtime flowers are white bells. Proven Winners recommends it for the center of a container planting with acidic, moist, and well-drained soil. Prune late fall or late winter since it blooms on new growth.

Abelia Pinky Bells has long-blooming large lavender-pink flowers on red stems and leaves in the spring. This variety can grow to five feet tall. They can be sheared every few years to maintain a smaller size. It is a cross between Abelia schumannii ‘Bumblebee’ and Abelia zanderi ‘Little Richard’ with a strong root system and healthy growth. Abelias attract butterflies but not rabbits or deer.

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