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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #127

PAL Question 

I recently bought an Abelia 'Edward Goucher.' When I got it home, I noticed a lot of the stem tips were broken off. I figured it probably happened when the salesperson pulled it away from the other plants. I tried to be very careful when I planted it, but again, some of the tips bent and broke. Then after a rainstorm the other day, I found a couple more broken. I love the plant, but is it going to be that fragile? I planted it on the southwest side of my house. Will the stems grow more sturdy?

Also, what is the best way to prune it? I thought I read that you shouldn't just trim branches but rather take some back to the ground. So if branches keep breaking, what will happen?


Woody shrubs purchased in nurseries often have the damage you describe, mainly from being packed into a truck for transport from the grower. Abelias are not particularly fragile when established - the branches thicken up and get stronger with time. You are right about not trimming (shearing) branches but cutting them to the ground or to a strong main branch.

The best guide to pruning abelias that I found is in Cass Turnbull's Guide to Pruning (Cass Turnbull, 2004, Sasquatch Books). She recommends removing whole branches if they are dead or damaged. When the plant is older, she suggests removing some of the lower branches that grow along the ground, and some of the taller branches that grow straight upwards. As mentioned, prune them back to a main stem. You can remove up to a quarter of the branches at a time. Pruning is best done in the winter months; pruning an abelia during the growing season will encourage it to grow even more. (In your situation, though, you might want to do some pruning during the growing season to encourage this sort of quick growth.)

Of course, if all your branches are broken, you will have to wait a year before you can do this kind of pruning - don't cut them all off. Old, overgrown plants can be cut to the ground for renewal, but a new plant probably will not survive this.

Finally, remember that this variety grows to 5 feet. Trying to keep it smaller by shearing it will lead to growth of water sprouts, and even more pruning...Cass explains all of this very well.

Keywords Abelia, Pruning
Season All Season
Date 2008-01-03

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