The weigela is the perfect shrub for someone who wants a low-maintenance plant that repays your mild efforts with profuse blooms. After its initial springtime bloom, the weigela will have shorter, less-intense flowering cycles throughout the summer. In addition to a variety of blossom colors, the weigela’s leaves range from cream to dark green and may be solid or variegated. The shrub can have an arching, mounding, upright, or spreading growth habit, and range from barely a foot tall to over 10 feet. Sub-species of this carefree shrub exist for almost every purpose.
Weigelas do best planted early in the spring or later in the fall — planting during the heat of the summer can cause transplant shock. Select a site with well-drained soil, and prepare a hole that is the same depth as the plant's root ball and at least twice as wide. When backfilling the hole after planting, be sure to leave the stem and some of the root ball exposed.
Moderately acidic to slightly alkaline soil is preferred for the weigela. A soil test that shows a pH range from 5.5 to 7.5 is perfect. The shrub also has a preference for moist soil. Working in some organic matter as you refill the hole can help it better retain moisture and provide additional nutrients.
The weigela will grow in anything from full sun to partial shade. To get the most abundant blooms, however, it needs exposure to full sun. In areas with strong summer heat, plant the weigela in an area that offers some shade as protection during the afternoons. If your weigela is one of the varieties with variegated leaves, full sun exposure may lead to lighter leaves with less contrast.
Weigelas prefer moist soil, but don’t make the mistake of overwatering them, either. Soil that remains soggy will make the weigela susceptible to diseases like root rot. Check the soil frequently and water before it becomes dry. Making this an early-morning task ensures the leaves and foliage dry quickly, which helps protect them from fungus.
Aphids are attracted to a wide variety of garden plants, including weigelas. Not only do they damage the leaves as they feed, but they also excrete a sticky substance that attracts ants. Japanese beetles are also fond of the weigela. If you look closely at your shrub, you may notice some of the leaves appear to be folded and tied with a silk string. This is the work of the leafroller. Their young overwinter on the plant, nestled inside the folded leaf.
The weigela is attractive to other pests, as well, including spider mites, mealybugs, and more. Treating the shrub with an insecticide spray will typically take care of these infestations. Keep an eye on your weigelas and look for signs of pest damage, such as holes or white dots on the leaves. Treat the problem before the infestation does too much damage, or you run the risk of having to destroy the whole plant.
Several diseases can infect the weigela. Anthracnose is a fungal infection that causes the leaves to develop brown spots and purple edging. Eventually, the spots turn black. The leaves will fade to yellow before eventually drying up and falling off. Botrytis is a fungal disease that attacks all parts of the plant, creating grey mold on the stems, leaves, and flowers. Cool, wet weather creates the perfect environment for botrytis. In hot, humid areas, the weigela may develop black spot on the top and bottom of the leaves. The spots spread and eventually merge. The fungus will continue to attack the plant until it loses all of its leaves.
Diseases that affect the weigela are most often the result of fungi. The best way to prevent them is to avoid creating situations conducive to their spread, such as over-watering, and removing garden litter regularly.
Weigelas do not require pruning, but a light trim can enhance their natural shape. Their blooms develop on the previous year’s branches, so pruning should take place immediately after their spring bloom is complete. Remove limbs that detract from the shape of the shrub, as well as any that do not appear healthy or are growing towards the interior of the plant. Weigelas are low-maintenance, but they do appreciate an application of slow-release fertilizer early in the spring.
Propagating, which is done by taking cuttings, is easier with the weigela than many shrubs. Each cutting should be about 6 inches long and taken from the tip of the plant. Leave the top two sets of leaves, pinching off the remainder. Dip the end in rooting hormone and stick them in a well-drained potting mix. Keep the cuttings in a shady area, misting them several times a day so the soil remains moist.
After a few weeks, you’ll notice resistance when you tug gently. This means the cuttings have developed roots. You will probably notice some new growth developing around this time. At this point, transplant your cutting into a larger pot or a shaded growing area. After one growing season, they are hardy enough to move to their permanent location.
Weigelas make excellent landscaping shrubs in USDA zones 4 through 8. It is an easy-to-grow choice that provides great value with its early spring blooms that repeat throughout the summer. Deer are not usually interested, and it does an excellent job of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. In addition to its more traditional uses along home foundations or as a privacy hedge, spreading varieties provide erosion-preventing ground cover along slopes.
There are many varieties of weigela. To narrow down your choices, think of how you want to use the shrub. Compact types can be grown in containers, while medium-sized choices look nice as a foundation planting or along walkways. The tallest options, when planted alongside each other, can create hedges.