What is Kolkwitzia?

Vasanth S.

Kolkwitzia is a plant genus that is part of the Caprifoliaceae family. It contains only one species of shrub, namely Kolkwitzia amabilis, which is native to Hubei province in central China. The shrub typically grows 10 feet (3 m) in height, with a similarly sized spread, and features clusters of pink flowers. It is a low maintenance shrub that is generally pest and disease free. The species is usually propagated by greenwood cuttings in late spring.

Kolkwitzia amabilis is native to Hubei province in central China.
Kolkwitzia amabilis is native to Hubei province in central China.

The Kolkwitzia genus is named after Richard Kolkwitz, who was a professor of botany in Berlin. The plant itself was discovered by an Italian missionary named Giraldi sometime between 1890 and 1895 in China. His initial shipment of seeds to the west weren't used, however. A second shipment of seeds, collected at a different location by Earnest Wilson, was used to grow the first batch of cultivated Kolkwitzia shrubs in 1901.

This genus is valued for its abundant bell-shaped flowers. The petals are pink and the interior of the flower is yellow. It typically blooms in late spring or early summer. Several types of butterflies and bees are attracted to the flowers and an occasional hummingbird may visit the shrub as well.

The shrub itself has an arching or weeping appearance. It is ideal as a foundation plant to cover unsightly parts of a house, such as crawl spaces and utility pipes. It is also used as a border shrub, as well as a specimen plant. In fact, Kolkwitzia amabilis can be the focal point of a landscape.

To have a healthy, long lasting Kolkwitzia shrub, the soil and environmental conditions should be as ideal as possible. Generally, Kolkwitzia shrubs tolerate most types of soil, whether it be clay, loamy, or sandy. It can also adapt to acidic or alkaline soil. The one factor that isn't negotiable is that the soil should be well-draining. In addition, the shrub should be placed in an area that has some direct sunlight.

During the first growing season, it is recommended to water the shrub regularly. Applying a general fertilizer helps new growths emerge. If a particular shape is desired, trimming should be done after the flowers have fallen.

Generally, the shrub is propagated by greenwood cuttings. Greenwood cuttings are taken when the growth rate has slowed, which is usually in June. Usually, a 4 inch stem is cut about 1/8 of an inch below a leaf. The leaves on the bottom half of the stem are removed. Afterward, the stem is placed in a rooting container to establish itself.

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