Once the azaleas, dogwoods and other early spring flowers have faded, weigela takes over in the garden, filling the late spring and early summer days with delicate blooms and interesting foliage. Part of the honeysuckle family, weigela produces small clusters of 1-inch-long, pink or red flowers with dark centers that seem to burst from the foliage. The flowers are tubular and a few varieties are fragrant.
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Weigela is considered an old-fashioned shrub, popular in Victorian gardens of the late 19th century. Many types have foliage in varying shades of rich green. Some weigela, like Wine and Roses, sport eye-catching, purplish foliage that provides the perfect background for the shrub's trumpet-like flowers. The pink or red flowers are sometimes tinged with white. Some varieties, like the compact Nana Variegata, have variegated leaves that improve the plants aesthetic appeal as a foliage plant. After the first mass flowering in late spring, weigela sometimes puts forth a few flowers into the summer months.
Weigela can tolerate light shade or dappled sunlight in the garden, but flower production will be reduced and may cease altogether. The plant prefers to bask in full sunlight all day long. Unless you are planting weigela mainly for its foliage, choose a site in the garden that gets as much sun as possible. Most varieties of weigela can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8, though some varieties, such as Weigela praecox, an Asian native, are hardy in zones 5 through 8, while Carnaval is hardy in zones 5 through 9. Weigela prefers moist but not wet soil and tolerates a variety of soil types.
Weigela is easy to care for, demanding little in the way of watering or fertilizer. The plant is largely undisturbed by pests or disease. Prune the bush immediately after flowering to maintain its shape and control growth both vertically and horizontally. Weigela flowers on old wood, so prune only dead wood in the fall to promote new, vigorous growth in spring.
Weigela is often planted in rows as a hedge, but dwarfs like Minuet may be used in border plantings or as foundation plants. Except for varieties bred to have more interesting foliage, common weigela's foliage is uninteresting alone and the shrubs may be best planted among evergreens to avoid drab spots in the garden.