Another popular plant for ornamental landscapes, its hardiness and prolific blooms add an informal charm to the landscape. When used correctly, its arching habit allows blooms to gently cascade. This flowing form lends an air of casualness not often seen. Instead, gardeners and landscapers seem compelled to force them into balls, boxes, and formal hedges. When this occurs, they do not produce as many blooms. The name is A. x grandiflora for Pete's sake! Formally, grandiflora means large flowers, suggesting the blooms are larger than its parent species. That is, until they are heavily pruned. This is my direct plea to let them grow as intended, and you and wildlife will benefit from the floral show. Rather than using them as topiaries, a simple removal of unwanted canes should suffice.
The second photo below is one that I severely pruned by removing old canes...not even phased by this pruning. Instead, it returned the following season with more density and flowers than it had in the past. It is difficult to photograph in its location shaded by a birch tree, so you will have to trust me on this one.
Speaking of shade, most references will recommend full sun to partial shade, but I respectfully disagree. While A.x grandiflora can certainly tolerate sun, why not place it in the best conditions so it does not need to "tolerate" its circumstance? In full sun, they grow a little more compact, which might be a desirable result, but the leaves and flowers tend to look washed out. Placing them in afternoon shade may result in a better performer.
The pale lavender to white tubular flowers are not their only benefit. New growth in spring and flower calyx in autumn will turn bronze in color. When winter cold sets in, the leaves turn a mottled red/orange, further adding interest. If the winter cold is enough for this commonly called glossy abelia to lose leaves, its attractive bark will extend observers' interests, as it appears to be striped and will even exfoliate revealing rich color underneath. In short, designers and their clients have an opportunity to loosen up a bit by allowing A.x grandiflora to show off its diversity, providing we do not inhibit its form.
Botanical Name: Abelia x grandiflora
Abelia: Honoree, surgeon and naturalist Clarke Abel
Grandiflora: Having large blooms
Common Name: Glossy abelia
Family Name: Caprifoliaceae
Origin: Cross between A. chinensis and A. uniflora; both native to China.
Positioning: Edge of lawn, background, slope
Garden Themes: Asian-inspired, pollinator, cottage, urban, coastal, scented
Uses: Informal hedge, formal hedge (with limitations noted above), mass, border, foundation, planters, erosion control
Type: Evergreen, semi-evergreen, deciduous shrub (pending winter severity)
Form: Arching vase
Size: 8' tall by 5' wide (often kept shorter)
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower, form
Bark: Red/brown when young turning copper or light tan with age. Mature stems will split to review red/brown underneath, appearing striped.
Margin: Entire to dentate
Color: Dark green turning purple, red, and/or orange pending winter temperatures.
Surface: Glossy above with slight texture, smooth underneath
Flower: Summer to Autumn. Tubular lavender/white flowers in open cymes (clusters where the end flower blooms first). Bronze calyx persist after flower has past. Light fragrance.
Fruit: Summer to fall. Leather achene, inconspicuous.
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: 4-24; H1, H2
USDA Zones: 5-9
Light: Sun to partial shade
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Moderate
Texture: Sand, loam, clay, well composted
Moisture Retention: Well-drained
pH: Acidic to neutral
Tolerances: Deer, drought, pollution, saline
Branch Strength: N/A
Insects: Not significant
Disease: Not significant
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Extension Gardener. "Linnaea x grandiflora." North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Accessed on August 19, 2021, from https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/linnaea-x-grandiflora/.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
Plant Finder. "Abelia × grandiflora." Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis. Accessed on August 18, 2021, from http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=j150.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on July 27, 2021.
Arching Stems on Terrace: "180927 068 Getty Center - South Terrace, Abelia x grandiflora 'Edward Goucher' Pink Abelia, perhaps" by cultivar413 is licensed under flickr.
All other photos by TELCS.