Kaleidoscope Abelia: A Seasonal Color-Changer

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Looking for the perfect plant to provide a new shade of beauty in each season? Look no further than kaleidoscope abelia.

This particular cultivar of Abelia x grandifolia is a true delight. Each season its foliage shifts and changes to a new vibrant hue. From late spring into the fall, it’s awash in flowers. And best of all, it can tolerate compact spaces as well as open beds!

Super-easy for beginners, it’s perfect for those who want year-round attractive garden spaces. You’ll love kaleidoscope abelia once it’s become a fixture in your yard.

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Quick Care Guide

Kaleidoscope Abelia
Kaleidoscope abelia gets many shades of foliage throughout the year. Source: wallygrom
Common Name(s): Glossy abelia, kaleidoscope abelia
Scientific NameAbelia x grandiflora
Family:Caprifoliaceae
Zone:5-9
Height & Spread:2′-4′ tall (up to 6′ in warm climates), 3′-4′ wide
LightFull sun to partial shade
SoilOrganically rich, moist soil with good drainage, acidic
Water:At least 1″ per week
Pests & Diseases:Occasional aphids, no major diseases

All About Kaleidoscope Abelia

Kaleidoscope abelia flowers
Pink buds open to reveal the beautiful kaleidoscope abelia flowers. Source: David J. Stang

Growers of kaleidoscope abelia choose it for its spectacular color display. The first shoots of new growth in the spring are a lovely yellow-green color, vivid and bright.

As the spring fades into summer, the leaves change. The centers remain green and darken slightly, while the edges turn a golden yellow. This is when it bursts into flower as well. The pinkish-tinged buds turn into white tubular flowers across the plant’s surface.

In the autumn, the golden color shifts to oranges and reds, while the center of the leaves remain deep green. It’s quite eye-catching through the fall, especially as it may still remain in flower for a while!

In zones 7-9, the autumnal display stays on the plant through the winter months. In the spring, they will shift back towards green tones. Zones 5-6 see some fall leaf dropping, and if the weather’s too cold the plant may die back a bit, but it’ll return in spring. You’ll see the first signs of new reddish-tinged stems appear once the weather is warm enough.

Kaleidoscope abelia is a specific abelia x grandiflora hybrid cultivar. There are other cultivars of abelia x grandiflora, but by far the most popular is this one for its colorful hues!

To create this unique hybrid, Abelia chinensis and Abelia uniflora were carefully cross-pollinated. This produced “Little Richard”, a popular Abelia x grandiflora hybrid. Kaleidoscope was a sport hybrid that developed from Little Richard. It’s developed quite a fanbase, and it’s easy to see why!

Plant this glossy abelia in either the spring or the fall. I recommend a fall planting in warmer climates. It gives the roots time to become established before the next summer’s heat kicks in.

Make sure to amend your planting hole with lots of compost before planting. Once it’s in place, mulch heavily to deter weeds and keep the soil moist.

Caring For Your Abelia

Late springIn late spring and early summer, the leaves develop golden edges. Source: Michael Rivera early summer foliage
In late spring and early summer, the leaves develop golden edges. Source: Michael Rivera

Most gardeners find to their delight that kaleidoscope abelia will grow itself. Simply plant, add some mulch, and grow! But for spectacular leaf and flower displays, follow the tips below.

Light & Temperature

Glossy abelia prefers full sun to partial shade conditions. Flowering is much more abundant when it has full sun, though!

Warmer climates have a somewhat evergreen tendency. It will be a beautiful lime green in the spring and turn yellow in the summer. Autumn brings red-orange leaves with lovely dark centers. In zones below 7, you may experience a winter leaf drop.

Those in colder areas may see the stems die back to the ground from the winter’s chill. As long as there’s mulch to protect the roots from freezing, it will renew in the spring.

Water & Humidity

Your plant likes to have consistently moist soil. Give it at least an inch of water per week, and more in hotter conditions.

Before watering, test the soil’s moisture. Take a hand trowel and stick it about three inches into the soil. If the tip comes out damp, wait to water until it’s dried out.

Soil

Abelia flowers fading
As the abelia flowers fade, the leaves shift towards fall coloring. Source: Pixabay

As stated in the watering section, your glossy abelia prefers moist soil. But, like most plants, you don’t want it too moist. Avoid standing water around your plant by providing good drainage.

Ideally, your soil should be rich in organic matter. Working in composted manures or worm castings before planting helps to retain moisture.

Kaleidoscope abelia likes a slightly-acidic soil pH, much like lingonberries or blueberries. Do not work agricultural lime or other acid neutralizers into the soil around this plant!

Fertilizer

Select a slow-release, granular fertilizer that’s been optimized for use on acid-loving plants. In the early spring before new growth starts to appear is the time to choose. Apply as per manufacturer’s directions.

You can do a second, lighter feeding in the summer when flower buds begin to appear. It’s not as important as the early spring feeding, but may spark more budding. Another application of slow-release nitrogen in late summer will kickstart the next spring’s growth.

Acidic fertilizers with high nitrogen are preferred for the spring feeding. The nitrogen boost stimulates new growth. If doing an optional summer feeding, an acidic, balanced low-NPK fertilizer’s fine.

Propagation

Summer fading into fall foliage
As autumn approaches, kaleidoscope abelia leaves begin to redden. Source: pépiniériste 85

Propagating kaleidoscope abelia is done from cuttings. As it’s a hybrid plant, no other method works reliably.

But with this plant, it’s slightly more complex than normal. There are three forms of cuttings which can be taken at different times of year. Those are softwood, summer, or hardwood cuttings.

Softwood cuttings should be taken from the first new shoots in the spring. Pick a vigorous, healthy tip that’s about 6″ in length and which has a few leaves at the tip. Once you’ve cut it with sterile pruning shears, place it in moistened potting soil. A seedling heating mat set to 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit helps spur root development. Keep it moist, and it should root in a few weeks. This is the most reliable option.

In the summer, semi-ripe cuttings are taken when the plant’s in bud. These stems have firmed up a bit and aren’t as flexible as the spring new growth. Select healthy tips that’re 6″ in length, but be choosy. Ideal tips should be cut just below a leaf node, and should be stripped of the lower leaves, keeping only a few at the top.

Plant your semi-ripe cuttings similarly to softwood cuttings, but keep them moist. A mist bench or terrarium will keep the humidity up around these older cuttings. If you don’t have a mist bench or terrarium, use a clear plastic bag to act as a greenhouse. A couple of short stakes can support the bag and keep it off the cutting. Once it has set roots, gradually introduce drier conditions until it adapts.

Finally, we come to hardwood cuttings. These have far less likelihood of taking root than softwood or semi-ripe cuttings. What they do have is more prevention from fungal disease than the younger wood types. Select cuttings from hardwood that’s at least one year old. Before planting, dip the cut end into water and then rooting hormone powder. Hardwood cuttings take the longest to set root.

Pruning

During the growing season, prune lightly if at all. From spring until fall, the only pruning required is to maintain its shape.

When it’s in winter dormancy, you can do a pruning of up to 1/3rd its height. This will encourage new spring growth. Don’t prune more than a third of the plant back, though. You’re just trying to help it bush out once it enters active growing again.

While kaleidoscope abelia can return from a much more severe pruning, you want to avoid taking off too much of the older wood unless it’s dying off. Dead branches can be pruned back to the plant’s base. Otherwise, leave the older wood in place to grow on!

Troubleshooting

Closeup of kaleidoscope abelia flowers
A closeup view of the trumpet-shaped abelia flowers. Source: darknesschildsin

For beginning gardeners, this glossy abelia is a great starter shrub. Its low maintenance nature and ease of care make it a delight in virtually any garden. And best of all, very few problems plague this plant!

Growing Problems

Few problems materialize, but the most common is found only in the spring. Quick-growing stems can be weaker and prone to flopping over. You can provide support if you wish, but most opt for a light tip-trimming to neaten up the plant’s appearance.

Pests

As a general rule, pests leave abelias alone. They are resistant to deer and other grazers too!

If anything, you may encounter a few aphids. While these pose little risk to the plant, they can cause some leaf-spotting. Left to multiply, they may pose a slight danger to your plant’s health. Use neem oil or an insecticidal soap to reduce their numbers.

Diseases

One of the best things about this particular plant is that diseases aren’t common. No major plant diseases strike kaleidoscope abelia with any severity. You may find some minor leaf spotting at worst, but not enough to impact your plant’s health.

Leaf shape and patterning spring
These spring leaves reveal their dual coloration which changes throughout the year. Source: Starr

So if you’re looking for a bright bit of foliage color, you’ll find the kaleidoscope abelia to your liking. Whether it’s the yellow-green glow of spring or the fiery shades of autumn, it’s stunning. Year-round, it will provide cheerful color for your garden spaces! You can find this lovely plant online at PlantingTree.


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime Gardener

Kevin Espiritu
Founder

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