Abelia is a tough workhorse that keeps the show going through the blistering heat and humidity.

When summer heat and humidity arrive, many shrubs switch to ‘survival mode’ and hunker down until more agreeable temperatures set in. Not so with abelia. This tough little shrub thrives through whatever summer throws its way. This Asian native blooms from late spring through summer and even sporadically up until frost. It is a member of the Caprifoliaceae family which includes the honeysuckles, so it is no surprise that it has a nice fragrance and attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the tubular flowers. In fact, many beekeepers plant it on purpose to keep their hives fed. Bambi doesn’t find it particularly tasty, so it is an excellent choice if deer plague your property.

Abelias make an excellent choice for foundation plantings because they bloom on new wood. Homeowners can keep them neat and tidy around their home and still be guaranteed a lovely show. Prune in early spring for summer blooms. They are pretty much care-free and seldom have any pest problems. Many churches and banks in my town use them because they look nice all year and are low maintenance. New foliage is bronze and is evergreen to semi-evergreen, depending on how far north or south you are. Abelias are even somewhat salt-tolerant, so make a good choice for coastal gardens as well.

There are several types of abelias, however the most popular seems to be the Abelia x grandiflora, which is an hybrid cross between A. chinensis and A. uniflora. There are a number of named cultivars with various attributes such as variegated foliage and dwarf growth habits, so there’s sure to be one that is a good fit for your property. Some grow to barely 3 feet tall, while others top out at about 6 to 8 feet, however any of them can be pruned to keep them tidy in their surroundings, just be sure to prune in early spring before the new growth emerges. They look best when allowed to maintain an airy, arching form, but I’ve seen hedges of abelias too. Just remember to prune a hedge back further than you want to to grow in late winter to allow it to bloom. Plant your abelia in full sun to partial shade and water well for its first year. After that, it should be somewhat drought-tolerant, but bear in mind that there will be fewer blooms when the plant is under stress. It also does best when planted where it is sheltered from the wind. Here at my home, that is along my eastern foundation. They are sheltered from the west winds and I have sun on those beds until about 1pm. Abelias are hardy from USDA Zones 6 through 9, but since they bloom on new wood, even if they freeze to the ground in harsh winters, you’ll still have a nice show each spring.

These shrubs are a bug magnet, so be prepared to see many species of bees, insects and butterflies around them. They are an excellent choice for a pollinator garden. I’ve even used the slender branches with my cut flower arrangements and they look great mixed with summer flowers. Abelias are pretty much a win-win situation in the garden and provide an attractive and carefree show each summer.