Garden writers tend to wax poetic about the beauty of lilacs, dogwoods, forsythias, spireas and other fresh, spring charmers — and toss in a few "ohs-and-ahs" for daffodils and tulips. All of these plants enliven the garden after a cold, dull winter. But who’s for the wonderful weigela?
I confess, I didn’t know that much about these shrubs and don’t have one in my landscape. Yet. This spring, I’ll be adding several because I find them simply irresistible. What’s not to love about a shrub that blooms reliably, is easy to grow, bothered by few, if any pests, and is a real stunner in full bloom?
Wil Carew’s session on weigelas at the recent Winter Garden Fair, hosted by Linn County Master Gardeners at Kirkwood College, was the perfect introduction. Weigela (rhymes with tequila) florida is a deciduous, spreading, rounded and dense shrub. Growth rate is moderate to fast. Blooming is profuse in full sun; plants get scraggly in shade. Weigelas are adaptable to most well-drained soils and dislike crowding but transplant easily.
From a distance, the funnel-shaped flowers remind me of azaleas. Choosing a cultivar may be the hardest part. There are close to 200 cultivars with flowers in all shades of red, pink, white, even a few yellows. Foliage ranges from deep bronze to green and variegated. Some new cultivars are rebloomers or continuous bloomers. A number of varieties are hardy to Zones 4 and 5.
Use them as accent shrubs in the landscape or border, or mass several in a border. You can grow them as hedges, too, and smaller varieties are suitable for containers. Weigelas are deer-resistant and attract hummingbirds.
Pruning will keep the shrub’s size in check. Most weigelas bloom on year-old wood, although some bloom on both new and old wood. Trim bushes immediately after flowering to avoid pruning away next year’s blooms. Otherwise it's as low-maintenance as it gets.
Here are among some of Carew’s suggested cultivars that I found particularly appealing:
“Sonic Bloom” series — Red, Pearl or Pink. Heavy flush of flowers in late spring with repeat blooming throughout the summer and fall. Upright and arching; require no deadheading.
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“Wine & Roses” (“Alexandra”) — Rich purple foliage with rosy pink flowers; foliage color intensifies as the season progresses.
“Red Prince” —ISU introduction with red flowers that do not fade, reblooming in late summer.
“Dark Horse” — Dark bronze foliage with lime green veination; pinkish red flowers, 3-feet by 3-feet.
“My Monet” — Grown mostly for the green-and-white variegated foliage that blushes pink in autumn; flowers are purplish-pink. Needs filtered sun to prevent scorching.
“My Monet Sunset” — Variegated gold foliage that takes on a red tone in fall. Occasional flowers are pink.
“Minuet” — Hardy with purple-tone foliage and red, purple and yellow flowers.
“Spilled Wine” — Dark red, wavy leaves and a spreading habit; produces hot pink-magenta flowers on a smaller plant that is wider than it is tall.