Abelia chinensis R. Br.

TSO logo

Sponsor

Kindly sponsored by
The Normanby Charitable Trust

Credits

Owen Johnson (2021)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2021), 'Abelia chinensis' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/abelia/abelia-chinensis/). Accessed 2021-08-01.

Genus

Common Names

  • Chinese Abelia

Synonyms

  • Abelia rupestris Lindl.
  • Linnaea chinensis (R. Br.) A. Braun & Vatke
  • Linnaea ruprestris (Lindl.) A. Braun & Vatke
  • Abelia hanceana M. Martens ex Hance
  • Abelia ionandra Hayata
  • Abelia lipoensis M.T. An & G.Q. Gou
  • Linnaea aschersoniana Graebn.

Glossary

clone
Organism arising via vegetative or asexual reproduction.
endemic
(of a plant or an animal) Found in a native state only within a defined region or country.

Credits

Owen Johnson (2021)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2021), 'Abelia chinensis' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/abelia/abelia-chinensis/). Accessed 2021-08-01.

A densely-branched semi-evergreen shrub to 2 m tall, deciduous in colder climates. Shoots densely reddish pubescent, rarely glabrous. Leaves ovate to elliptic, 0.5–5 × 0.4–3 cm, base rounded, tip acute, shiny, glabrous or with scattered hairs beneath, and often with white tufts under the vein-axils; margin with 2–12 depressed minute teeth on each side; petiole 1–4 mm, downy. Flowers paired (flowering consecutively), fragrant, opening from August and continuing into winter in a milder climate. Pedicels 3–4 mm, minutely pubescent and with a pair of reduced bracts. Calyx lobes 5, subequal, lanceolate to slightly spoon-shaped, 3–5 × 1–3 mm, green then reddish. Corolla almost regular, bell-shaped, white to pale pink and unmarked, 7–12 mm long; lobes 5, subequal, ovate, minutely hairy outside and with stiff hairs on the lower lip. Nectary gland quite conspicuous as a pouch under the base of the corolla tube. Stamens 4, much longer than the corolla tube. Filaments 4–8 mm long, hairy in the lower part; anthers at first bluish-pink. Style 7–15 mm. Fruit 4 mm long, crowned with persistent and slightly enlarged sepals, ripening October–November. (Landrein & Farjon 2020Flora of China 2021).

Distribution  China Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang. Japan Ryukyu Islands Taiwan

Habitat Mountain forests to 1500 m asl.

USDA Hardiness Zone 7

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Awards AGM

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

Abelia chinensis is the most widely distributed of its genus; its range covers a great swathe of China and extends south-westwards to the mountainous border with Vietnam (as var. lipoensis (M.T. An & G.Q. Gou) Landrein) and it is the only Abelia to have spread eastwards (as var. hanceana (M. Martens ex Hance) Landrein) into Taiwan and the Japanese Ryukyu islands (Landrein & Farjon 2020); Landrein and Farjon also recognise var. aschersoniana (Graebn.) Landrein, endemic to Hong Kong. The species as a whole is distinct in its small but profusely borne flowers which are usually white, strongly scented, and can continue through autumn.

Abelia chinensis was cultivated in Europe by 1846 (Edwards & Marshall 2019) and is hardy across the UK, though it needs plenty of summer heat to flower well and thrive and is best under a south-facing wall in most locations. In the south-eastern United States it is fully deciduous (Dirr 2009), the leaves falling without colour. In coastal gardens it is moderately salt tolerant (Stewart 2021). As a garden plant in the west it has now been almost entirely eclipsed by its hybrids with A. uniflora (A. × grandiflora). A. chinensis did receive the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 2009 – but this was for a clone (‘China Rose’) which may not have been commercially available since 2015 (Royal Horticultural Society 2021).) The species is still commonly cultivated in China itself (Flora of China 2021).


'China Rose'

Awards
AGM

A selection with pale pastel pink flowers, attractively backed by soft mauve (sepals); it was awarded the RHS’s Award of Garden Merit in 2009 but no longer seems commercially available in the UK (Royal Horticultural Society 2020).


'Keiser'

Synonyms
Abelia chinensis RUBY ANNIVERSARY™

A clone found in 2002 by Susan Keiser, a garden designer from New York, and available in the United States since 2011. The fairly upright young stems are burgundy red; the foliage also has a reddish cast and contrasts prettily with the pure white flowers (Hatch 2021–2022). RUBY ANNIVERSARY™ is occasionally sold as a clone of Abelia × grandiflora.


'White Surprise'

A vigorous upright selection with abundant, highly scented flowers, available in the United States from Balls Ornamentals since 2012 (Hatch 2021–2022).