The fragrant white blossoms of glossy abelia combine beautifully with the rose sepals to create a colorful display that lasts for months. Download a large version (800x600) of this image for a closer look.
Glossy abelia is a semi-evergreen (evergreen in the the South) shrub with arching branches and a rounded shape that can get as tall as 10 ft (3 m) and as wide as 12 ft (3.6 m). Rarely do specimens get that big, though, and the typical size is more like 3-5 ft (90-1.5 m) in height. It has glossy, dark green opposite leaves about 1-2 in (2.5-3 cm) long and half as wide. The fragrant, funnel shaped flowers are white, tinged with pink, and about an inch (2.5 cm) long. The long lasting sepals are rose pink and add more color to the inflorescence. Glossy abelia begins flowering in midsummer and continues until first frost. There are several named cultivars in the trade, including some with darker pink flowers, some with yellow or variegated leaves, some with a creeping habit, and some that stay small.
Glossy abelia is a hybrid species that resulted from a cross between the deciduous Chinese abelia (Abelia chinensis) and an evergreen species which does not have an English common name, A. uniflora. The parents of Abelia X grandiflora are both native to China. Exactly who crossed these two species (or where) is unknown, but the result was apparently first introduced to Western gardeners in Italy in 1886.
Culture Light: Grow glossy abelia in full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Glossy abelia tolerates a wide range of garden soils as long as they aren't waterlogged or extremely dry. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9. Glossy abelia is reported to survive in zone 5 where it dies to the ground in winter and resprouts from the roots in spring, resulting in a little 10-20 in (25-50 cm) semi-woody shrub. In zones 6 and 7, expect winter kill of stems and a smaller, semi-evergreen plant. Glossy abelia reaches its largest size in zones 8 and 9 where it is definitely evergreen. Propagation: Abelia cuttings are very easy to root. Take young, fast growing softwood tips about 6 in (15 cm) long and insert in moist potting medium. Maintain a humid environment for the few leaves that remain on the cutting, and roots should develop in a couple weeks.
Glossy abelia's glossy green foliage creates a beautiful background for the blossoms and gives the shrub a handsome appearance throughout the year (at least in Zones 8-9 where it is evergreen).
In plant books that alphabetize, Abelia comes first, and so it should! Glossy abelia makes a great border, foundation or hedge plant. The foliage is shiny and handsome and more or less evergreen, especially in the more southern zones. The graceful habit is dense and rounded. It blooms profusely on the current year's growth, so you can prune anytime. Butterflies are attracted to the long lasting flowers. This vigorous shrub is virtually maintenance free. What's not to like?
Glossy abelia is sometimes listed in the trade as Abeliarupestris, but this name is actually a synonym of A. chinensis. (In English, a synonym is merely an equal and interchangeable word. Not so in botanical and zoological taxonomy, where a synonym is a name that has been applied to a species (or other taxon), but for whatever reason, is not valid for that taxon. The invalid name must languish in synonomy and cannot be used for any other taxon either. For more on the esoterica of naming plants, see Floridata's What's in a (plant) Name.)