A shrub, growing slowly to 4 m tall, often leggy. Twigs with 6 longitudinal lines, the older bark peeling off between these. Leaves elliptic to obovate, 1.5–6 × 0.6–2.2 cm, dull green; juvenile leaves often dentate or with several oak-like rounded lobes. Flowers June-August, in axillary pairs, slightly scented; calyx- and corolla-lobes 4. Corolla 1–2 cm long, white, or pink especially outside the tube, from pink buds. Ovaries with 4 persistent calyx lobes, broad, 1-nerved. (Landrein 2021; efloras.org 2021).
Distribution Afghanistan Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Uzbekistan
Habitat Rocky slopes and open woodland, 1000–2000 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 6
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Zabelia corymbosa has the most westerly distribution of the extant Zabelia species, in the Tien Shan and Pamiro-Alay mountains of central Asia; plants from this area tend to be very hardy and also quite easy to cultivate in the climate of western Europe. The species is grown in E. Gareyev Botanical Garden in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, and Sven Landrein’s notes on this plant (Landrein 2021) form the basis of the above description; the rather oak-like lobing of the juvenile leaves seems to be that plant’s most distinctive feature.
Seed is advertised for sale from the Czech Republic, apparently from a plant which a single online (photograph) suggests may be genuine. In the UK, Z. corymbosa is recommended as a pollen- and nectar-producing garden plant by the Royal Horticultural Society (Royal Horticultural Society 2021), but as of early 2021 there are no known suppliers.