Weigela Bushes: Care, Facts

How to Grow an Old-Fashioned, Favorite Shrub

Lime and Golden weigelas have attractive leaves as well as flowers.
The lime and golden weigelas have attractive foliage, as well as flowers. David Beaulieu

Weigela bushes are old-time favorites, albeit on a tier or two below lilacsazaleas, and rhododendrons in name recognition. These shrubs took a back seat for a while in popularity, until new cultivars fueled the comeback that they are presently enjoying. Read all about these late spring blooming shrubs to learn whether to make them a part of your own landscape.

Taxonomy and Botany of Weigela Bushes

Plant taxonomy classifies weigela bushes as Weigela florida.

This is a case where the Latin name (Weigela) is so commonly used that it essentially doubles as a common name; when used as a common name for these bushes, do not capitalize the word. The plant belongs to the honeysuckle family.

Many weigela cultivars exist. Except where explicitly stated otherwise, this article deals only with the old-time Weigela florida.

Weigela florida is classified as a deciduous flowering shrub.

Features of the Shrub

Weigela bushes grow to a height of 6 to 10 feet, with a similar spread. Their arching branches produce light-pink flowers in June in a zone-5 landscape. There are cultivars that will give you deep-pink, red, or white blooms. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, and their color is more intense when they first bloom, fading afterward. The foliage is noteworthy only on cultivars.

Native Origin, Planting Zones, Sun and Soil Needs

Weigela bushes are indigenous to Asia and can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 8.

Although they tolerate a variety of conditions, plant the shrubs in full sun and in a well-drained soil for best results. This plant's water needs are average.

Outstanding Features of the Shrub

The old-fashioned weigela bush was grown just for its blossoms, which are numerous and attract hummingbirds.

But new cultivars offer interesting choices for foliage, too:

  • Variegata has variegated leaves. It measures 8 x 8 at maturity.
  • Nana Variegata is a dwarf version of Variegata (both bear light-pink flowers). It becomes 3 feet tall, with a slightly greater spread.
  • The foliage of Wine and Roses (Alexandra) is burgundy-purple. It reaches a height of 6 feet and a width of 5 feet.
  • Midnight Wine (Elvera) also has burgundy-purple leaves. It is a dwarf version of Wine and Roses, reaching a maximum of 2 feet tall (both sport pink flowers).
  • Still other types of weigela bushes have golden or lime-colored foliage. A nice choice for gardeners craving the Midas touch is Golden Jackpot  (Weigela florida MonRigney). It grows to be 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. Like the Wine and Roses and Midnight Wine cultivars, its flowers are a deeper pink than those on the species plant and on the variegated cultivars. But because the leaves of Golden Jackpot are so bright, the color of the flowers seems even deeper.

Care for Weigela Bushes (Pruning Tips, Etc.)

Most growers of these shrubs like the natural form weigela bushes assume, so pruning is not always necessary. If you do choose to prune, do so just after flowering.

These are shrubs that bloom on old wood. The longer you wait after the flowering period is over to prune, the greater the risk that you are removing flower buds, thereby depriving yourself of flowers for next year. 

Have your shrubs failed to bloom? Pruning at the wrong time is one possible culprit. Patience is also a virtue here: They simply do not always bloom in the first year that you bring them home from the nursery, even when:

  • You have not been guilty of any mistakes (such as improper pruning).
  • The weather has cooperated (there have been no late frosts that kill flower buds, etc.).

While weigela bushes are pest-free more often than are many shrubs, they can occasionally be bothered by aphids, spider mites, or scale insects. When an infestation is spotted, you can spray with neem oil. By planting weigela at the right time, you can often avoid leaf-wilt.

Fertilize each year with compost.

Landscaping Uses for This Plant

These bushes make good foundation plants and can serve as specimens in late spring, while they are in bloom. The types with variegated foliage, dark leaves, or golden leaves are the best specimens, since their leaves make them attractive throughout the spring and summer (as opposed to only when they are in flower). 

Wildlife enthusiasts, take note: In addition to being effective at attracting hummingbirds, the bushes are also plants that attract butterflies. Meanwhile, lovers of privacy may wish to plant several of these shrubs in a row to form a hedge for summertime privacy in the landscape.

Origin of the Names

The Weigela part of the botanical name comes from a German scientist named Christian Ehrenfried Weigel. The florida part is not a reference to the state of Florida (in the United States). Rather, it is a reference to the large number of flowers that the plant bears (as in the word, "florid," which can mean "flowery" or "showy").