Weigela (Weigela florida)

Old Fashioned Weiglea, Weigela

Weigela bushes are old-time landscape favorites, albeit a tier or two below more recognizable plants like lilacs, azaleas, and rhododendrons. While these shrubs (which are members of the honeysuckle family) took a back seat for a while in popularity, new weigela cultivars fueled a well-deserved comeback, making them a popular choice in ornamental landscaping.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Weigela is a genus of between six and 38 species of deciduous shrubs in the family Caprifoliaceae, growing to 1–5 m (3–15′) tall. All are natives of eastern Asia. The genus is named after the German scientist Christian Ehrenfried Weigel.

The leaves are 5–15 cm long, ovate-oblong with an acuminate tip, and with a serrated margin.

The flowers are 2–4 cm long, with a five-lobed white, pink, or red (rarely yellow) corolla, produced in small combs of several together in early summer.

The fruit is a dry capsule containing numerous small winged seeds.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Weigela bushes love sunlight and should be planted somewhere in your landscape that boasts at least eight to ten hours of direct light per day. If you live in an especially hot summer climate, your plant can probably handle a bit of afternoon shade or dappled light, but it should never be grown in full (or even partial) shade, as it can fail to bloom.

Temperature and Humidity

Beyond needing to wait until the risk of frost has passed to initially plant your weigela bush, the plant requires no special temperature conditions and will thrive just fine in the range of climates encompassed by its USDA hardiness zone specifications. Additionally, the easy-going plant has no specific humidity needs.

Watering

Weigela bushes will need consistent deep waterings as they’re getting established in your landscape. However, once that happens, it’s rare that you’ll actually have to water the plant. Once mature, they can typically acquire all the water they need from periodic rainfall. However, if you are experiencing a particularly hot or dry summer, you should consider manually watering the plant occasionally.

Soil

Though your weigela bush can tolerate a variety of soil conditions, it will thrive best in a mixture that is moist but well-draining. Plant your weigela bush somewhere that can accommodate its eventual growth, making sure it has room to spread out both over and below the surface of the soil without crowding nearby plants or running into any barriers (like a shed or rock wall).

In addition, your weigela bush will perform best in a soil mixture that is mildly acidic or alkaline, with a pH level between 5.5 and 7.5.

Fertilizing

For best results, fertilize your weigela bush once a year in the spring, right before new growth appears on the plant. You can use a balanced liquid fertilizer to do so or opt for slow-release pellets.

Planting Instructions

It’s best to plant weigela in late fall, so the roots have time to form over winter. It can be planted in early spring, as long as the hot weather doesn’t come too quickly. Don’t plant in the summer when it’s too hot for weigela to root well.

Water the weigela shrub in its container before transplanting into the ground. Dig a hole for the plant that’s the same height and two to three times the width of the root ball. Gently spread roots out on the sides and bottom of the root ball before placing in the hole. Fill in with soil around the plant, then thoroughly water the soil. Add more soil as needed to make sure the plant is at the same soil level as it was in its container. Add an inch of mulch to the top of the soil.

Pruning

Dwarf or miniature weigelas typically don’t need pruning, except maybe in colder regions where harsh winter weather can lead to dieback. Deal with this by pruning dead wood in late winter and after plants leaf out in spring.

With mature shrubs of larger varieties, remove just a few of the oldest, biggest stems in late winter. This leads to a heavier spring bloom, followed by the shrub producing new shoots, which are the ones that flower. New shoots in one year mean more flowers in future years.

If you need to prune your weigela to shape it or help contain wayward branches (especially on larger varieties), prune after blooming, or you risk reducing the flower show.

Propagation

Propagate weigela by stem cuttings. Take a 12-inch cutting just below a pair of leaves right after the first frost of fall or early spring before leaves appear. Dip in rooting hormone and place in soil, either in pots or in the ground. Make sure the soil doesn’t dry out. It can take a while for propagated stems to begin to grow.

Pests and Diseases

While weigela bushes stay pest-free more than are many other landscape shrubs, they can occasionally be bothered by aphids, spider mites, or scale insects. When an infestation is spotted, treat the plant immediately using a natural insecticide or horticultural oil like neem oil. You can also spray the plant vigorously with water to remove the pests from the foliage, but now you may risk harming the blooms on the plant if they’ve just erupted.

Overwintering

Weigela are cold-tolerant and grow in USDA  plant hardiness zones 4-8. Fall is the time to prepare your bush for winter. Moist soil also tends to stay warm longer than dry soil, so watering through fall helps keep the roots warm as the temperature falls. Adding a 2-3 inch layer of mulch to the base of the bush will help to insulate the soil and root system. Weigela is prone to winter dieback. At the end of winter, check the plant for any broken or dead stems and do a light pruning if needed.

Potting and Repotting 

Keep an eye on the top few inches of soil when planting weigela in a pot. When it dries out, you’ll need to water it. Keep potted weigela in full to part sun, whether indoors or out. This low-maintenance plant will grow well when potted.

III. Types of Weigela

  • ‘Briant Rubidor’ Weigela

Weigela florida ‘Briant Rubidor’ bears green-and-yellow variegated foliage and wine-red blooms on a shrub that grows 7 feet tall. Zones 5-8

  • ‘Eyecatcher’ Weigela

Weigela ‘Eyecatcher’ offers bold, variegated foliage on a compact shrub that grows to 2 feet tall and wide. It produces deep red flowers in late spring. Zones 4-8

  • ‘Ghost’ Weigela

Weigela florida ‘Ghost’ offers chartreuse foliage that pales to a shiny pale yellow in summer and deep red flowers. It grows 4-5 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8

  • My Monet Weigela

Weigela florida ‘Verweig’ is a compact combination of green, rose, and white variegated foliage that sparkles in the shade. Pink blooms appear in summer. It grows 18 inches tall and 2 feet wide. Zones 4-8

  • ‘Polka’ Weigela

Weigela florida ‘Polka’ is a vigorous shrub that grows 5 feet tall and wide and features yellow-throat, pink flowers continuously from early summer to early fall. Zones 4-7

  • ‘Red Prince’ Weigela

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ produces red flowers on arching stems in late spring then again in late summer. It grows 5-6 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide. Zones 4-7

  • Variegated Weigela

Weigela florida ‘Variegata’ offers green leaves edged in creamy yellow that turn white as the leaves age. It’s a refreshing effect in shade gardens. It grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-8

  • Wine and Roses Weigela

Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’ features burgundy foliage and rose-pink flowers in late spring. It grows 4-5 feet tall. Zones 4-8

IV. How to Choose the right Weigela 

With so many sizes and colors to choose from, here are some tips to consider:

  • For borders and large-scale landscapes:

Choose varieties that will mature to a bigger size and have the most eye-catching foliage and flowers. Mass as hedging, or use in combination with other complementary plants for maximum visual impact.

  • For containers and small yards:

Dwarf types will stay smaller and not overwhelm a space. They require the least amount of maintenance when it comes to pruning, a bonus for busy lifestyles. Use as edging along borders or pathways, or as foundation plantings near your home.

  • For bedding displays:

Varieties with a low, spreading habit can be massed in a garden bed or along a slope.

V. Uses and Benefits 

Weigela may be an old-fashioned favorite, but new varieties make it versatile in a modern yard. There’s a weigela for nearly any function in the landscape.

  • Choose a low-growing, spreading variety to act as a groundcover or hold down a slope.
  • To cultivate privacy, plant larger varieties as a hedge.
  • For a small yard, select dwarf types that won’t outgrow the space you have.
  • Dwarf weigelas also work well as edging or accent plants (like Midnight Wine)
  • Or use dwarf types with interesting leaf hues to fill pots with season-long color.

By pairing variegated, gold or dark leaf varieties with plants unfurling leaves in opposite colors, you can create eye-pleasing contrast in planting beds. Another way to capitalize on weigela’s leaf color is by drafting a bold leaf variety as a focal point. Place it where it commands attention and draws the eye along a path or through a planting bed. Or count on gold or variegated leaf weigela in lightly shaded areas to brighten the scene.

Weigela (Weigela florida) Details

Common name Old Fashioned Weiglea, Weigela
Botanical name Weigela florida
Plant type Perennial
Hardiness zone 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 8a, 8b
Growth rate Medium
Height 6 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
Width 6 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Pink
Leaf color Black