Margarita™ AbeliaAbelia x grandiflora 'Margarita'
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Abelia x grandiflora 'Margarita'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Margarita Abelia is a broad, rounded shrub usually no more than 2 feet tall, but up to 4 feet wide. The many branches keep it dense and neat, and every glossy leaf is edged in bright yellow, making this a colorful and attractive shrub every day of the year. Use it for edging beds, lining paths, growing in planters or adding wherever your beds are looking dull. White, fragrant flowers are scattered across it from mid-summer into fall, and these attract hummingbirds and pollinating insects.
Full sun is best for the Margarita Abelia, but if it must, a bit of partial shade is acceptable too. Almost any well-drained soil, including poor urban gardens, will be acceptable, and this plant asks for almost nothing. It is drought resistant, but does appreciate a drink when the weather is hot and dry. Pests, diseases and deer are rarely any problem, and the compact, neat growth means trimming becomes an optional extra. Easy, desirable and attractive – what more could we possibly ask for?
In mild and warm parts of the country, we can grow a whole lot more plants that are evergreen, especially flowering shrubs. Having that evergreen foliage in your garden means a much more attractive winter garden, and a more stable look too. A lot of evergreens, though, are green of one sort or another, and that can become boring. So let’s brighten up our evergreen plantings with the Margarita Abelia. Every leaf is neatly edged with light yellow, highlighted by the red young stems. Compact and broad, it adds the perfect bright touch to any bed, as a single plant, in drifts, or edging along a path. Always in leaf, fresh and appealing, it is broad but low, so you don’t need so many plants to fill the front of your beds with brightness. The white, fragrant flowers add even more of that brightness, and often attract hummingbirds. Super easy to grow, and always neat, if you have grown Abelia before you know about that annoying habit of sending up long, straggling stems. Well the Margarita Abelia doesn’t do that, and it also doesn’t send out plain green shoots that need removing – so pruning or trimming is hardly even needed.
The Margarita Abelia is a broad, low, evergreen bush with many branches that make it naturally dense and rounded. Broader than tall, you can expect it to be up to 4 feet wide after a few years, but only about 2 feet tall. You can control the size with trimming, and of course make a neat, formal hedge out of it too, but this variety is so naturally neat it is hardly necessary – that’s one less job in the garden to do. The leaves are in pairs along the stems, oval, pointed, a little leathery, and with a smooth, glossy surface. They always look fresh and clean. They are hardly more than an inch or so in length, and each one is edged with a broad, irregular band of butter yellow. No two leaves are identical, but the gold is always wide, and the center of the leaf is a rich mid-green. The overall look is bright, fresh and light, exactly the effect we look for from variegated plants. Young stems are red, and young leaves a slightly darker yellow, staying colorful though every season.
By mid-summer clusters of small white flowers develop at the ends of the stems. These are narrow funnels and sweetly fragrant. Hummingbirds and other pollinators are often attracted to them, bringing these beautiful creatures into your garden. Around the outside of each flower is a pinkish cup, called the calyx. When the tubular flowers drop these remain, keeping an attractive look for many weeks. Flowering continues well into fall, adding lots of interest to an already fascinating plant.
Wherever you feel your beds look a bit dull and ‘too green’, that is where to add the Margarita Abelia. It fits in well with just about any flower color, looking especially good with blues, silvers, purples, oranges and of course yellows. Place it according to the scale of the surrounding plants – its low height makes it great for fronting beds, and it has leaves to the ground, so it looks terrific along a pathway. Use it alone, in groups of 3, 5 or more, or as a continuous row. Space it 2 feet apart if you plant to trim it into a neat hedge, or up to 3 feet apart for more informal edging. In warm zones it is also wonderful in planters and tubs, below taller plants or surrounded by annual flowers and trailers.
The Margarita Abelia is semi-evergreen in zone 6, losing some leaves but soon leafing out fully when spring returns. From zone 7 it will stay completely evergreen year-round. If you use it in planters these can be left out all winter from zone 8, but in colder areas you might need to move it temporarily into a garden bed.
The best position for the Margarita Abelia is in full sun, as that will keep it compact and brightly colored. It can take a little shade – perhaps in the afternoon for a couple of hours, but this is not a shade plant, and it will become loose and thin in too much shade. It grows perfectly well in almost any well-drained soil, and best with some moisture. Although drought tolerant once established, it does benefit from some watering, which keeps it lush and looking great. It’s a good choice for urban gardens and poor soils.
Hardly ever bothered by pests or diseases, and normally ignored by deer, this is an easy plant to care for. A light spring trim, before the new growth comes, is a good way of keeping it perfect, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. After some years you can cut some of the oldest branches out completely low down inside the plant. This will encourage some strong new stems, rejuvenating it. If you want flowers, don’t trim after that first spring clipping.
A hybrid plant, Abelia x grandiflora has a long history in our gardens. It dates back to the Rovelli nurseries in Pallanza, on Lake Maggiore, in Italy. There, around 1886, two species of abelia from China – Abelia chinensis and Abelia unifora – were crossed together, producing a new plant that was better in gardens than either parent. Since then many different forms have been discovered. Back around 1997 Matt Clark, owner of Clark’s Liner Farm in Oxford, North Carolina, was working with a batch of an abelia variety called ‘Little Richard’. That plant has plain green leaves, but he spotted a branch that was variegated. Matt and his wife enjoy summer cocktails, but decided that they couldn’t get away with calling it ‘Margaritaville’, so settled for Margarita instead, for this new variety.
For low-maintenance gardening in mild and warm zones, abelia shrubs are right up there on the ‘must have’ list. There are many, all of them attractive and useful, but for our money when you want gold, turn to the Margarita Abelia. Brighten every bed or make colorful edging with this easy plant – you can scratch trimming of your ‘to-do’ list. Order now, because this new variety is getting rave reviews, and it will soon sell out completely.