September 2010 Plant of the Month: Glossy Abelia

September 2010 Plant of the Month: Glossy Abelia

Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 8:01 pm

Submitted by James Newburn, Assistant Director of the UT Gardens

If you are looking for a great plant of interest for the transition from summer to fall you may want to consider Glossy Abelia. In fact, this multi-stemmed woody shrub has attributes that make it a desirable addition to the landscape year round.
 
This old fashioned shrub often has long arching canes that provide a graceful profile that is filled with fragrant soft pink blooms. It can start blooming as early as late May but continues to bloom all summer into mid fall, including September, when summer annuals are fading before fall foliage appears.
 
Glossy Abelia, or Abelia x grandiflora, gets its name from the shiny leaves of the shrub. In the Southeast these leaves are semi-evergreen and remain on the plant all year. There are several cultivars available that offer a variety of leaf color and growth habit.
 
‘Canyon Creek’ is a nice rounded shrub with dense foliage. New growth is copper colored, but it then turns to yellow and finally green. The plant often maintains its copper to burgundy colored stems, which contrast nicely with the pink star-shaped flowers.
 
‘Kaleidoscope’ is a wonderful introduction that has a more tubular flower and blooms in clusters. Its foliage has a slightly golden variegation on bronze stems that again contrasts with the blush pink blooms. Once the blooming stops the flower’s copper colored sepals remain and continue to provide showy color. With all these subtle colors on one plant it is no wonder this plant has kaleidoscope as its name. Both of these cultivars tend towards a copper bronze color in fall and don’t lose many of their leaves.
 
Glossy Abelia is very easy to grow in the South. It requires full sun but will tolerate partial shade. It is also not terribly temperamental when it comes to soil, adapting to a wide variety of conditions. Once established it is reasonably drought resistant too, although some leaf drop and fewer blooms may occur with extended periods of drought. Pruning does not usually become an issue if given enough room to grow in the first place. Typical shrubs grow to about 5-6’ with smaller dwarf cultivars reaching 3-4’. There is even a prostrate form that grows 1-2’ with a spreading ground hugging habit. The graceful arching canes are one of this shrub’s attributes which along with the small leaves give it a fine texture in the garden. Selectively pruning older canes will encourage new growth but maintain the shape and texture.
 
There are few shrubs that offer year round interest, but Glossy Abelia is one that comes close.
 
 
James Newburn is the Assistant Director of the UT Gardens. The University of Tennessee Gardens located in Knoxville and Jackson are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. Their mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, collections, educational programs and research trials. The gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. Online at http://utgardens.tennessee.edu/
Posted 9.7.10

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