Widely grown flowering shrubs in the genus Abelia are notable for their graceful branches that arch outward to form striking mounds of color. Abelia species and cultivars grow in varying sizes and colors, but it is their arching growing habit that determines how they should be pruned. They accept pruning readily.
Abelia species are commonly called by their genus name, but there are differences in varieties that you might find in a nursery. Here are some examples:
- The most widely grown abelia is likely glossy abelia (Abelia x grandifloria), whose branches arch 2 to 4
feet tall in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 and through 7 and from 4 to 6 feet tall in USDA zones 8
- Edward Goucher (Abelia 'Edward Goucher') arches 2 to 3 feet tall and up 3 feet wide in USDA zones 6 and 7. In USDA zones 8 and 9, it grows up to 5 feet tall and just as wide.
- Korean or fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis) arches from 4 to 6 feet high, spreading equally wide in USDA zones 5 through 9. It grows better in zones 5 and 6 than it does in higher zones.
- Chinese abelia (Abelia chinensis) arches 5 to 8 feet high with a spread of 3 to 5 feet wide in USDA zones 7 through 9.
When to Prune
Prune all varieties of abelia in late winter before they begin their spring to autumn growing season. They grow blossoms on new wood that appears in spring.
Pruning them after they begin their spring growth can delay the appearance of blossoms. Pruning them during the middle of the growing season can kill stems and reduce their ability of the withstand winter cold.
What to Prune
Prune dead stems. Prune the tips of the arching branches to maintain an even look to the flowing branches. Cut some older stems to the ground to prevent crowding on an abelia's interior. An abelia sometime grows long, leggy stems, called water spouts, from the center of the shrub. These poke out of the plant's elegant mound shape. Prune them to the ground any time.
To rejuvenate an aging abelia, prune it to the ground before it begins growing in spring. It should regain its height in several years. A less drastic method of rejuvenating an abelia is to prune roughly one-third of the oldest stems to the ground each year before spring growth begins.
What to Use
Use hand shears to prune the tips of abelia branches up to 1/4 inch wide. Some hand shears have blades that operate like scissors. The cutting blade on others pushes down on a flat surface called the anvil. Anvil shears are better for larger branches.
Scissor and anvil lopping shears with handles from 16 to 30 inches long have more leverage, making them easier to use for pruning branches up to 1 1/2 inch wide and rejuvenate an aging plant.
To prevent the spread of plant disease, sterilize cutting blades before use by soaking them for five minutes in a solution of one part household bleach to three parts water. Let the blades air dry.
- University of Kentucky Extension: Pruning Landscape Shrubs
- Oregon State University Extension: Pruning Trees, Shrubs and Vines
- Living Landscape: Abelia
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Abelia x Grandiflora
- Sunset: Salvaging Old Shrubs
- HortScience: Mid-Season Pruning Affects Cold Tolerance of Albelia Cultivars in Central Georgia
- Purdue University Extension: Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs
- University of Tennessee: Canyon Creek Glossy Abelia
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Disinfecting Pruning Tools
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Abelia 'Edward Goucher'
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Abelia Mosanensis
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Abelia Chinensis
A one-time farm boy, Richard Hoyt, holder of a PhD in American studies, is a former newspaper reporter, magazine writer and college professor. While writing 27 novels of suspense, he has lived on sugar cane, pepper and papaya plantations and helped keep bees in Belize.