Shrubs, deciduous or semi-evergreen. Winter buds exposed, ovoid-orbicular, small, with several pairs of scales. Leaves opposite, rarely 3- or 4-whorled, shortly petiolate with an interpetiolar line, estipulate. Leaf margin entire to dentate or crenate-serrate. Flowers axillary, paniculate, single or paired (flowers opening consecutively); paired flowers with 6 bracts (Abelia chinensis), single flowers with 4 bracts (A. uniflora and A. forrestii) at base of ovaries; bracts small and not accrescent. Sepals 2-5, spreading, narrowly oblong, elliptic, persistent. Corolla 5-lobed, funnelform or bilabiate, white, yellow, pink, or red. Corolla tube gibbous ventrally at base containing a nectary of dense glandular hairs (nectaria trichomalia). Stamens didynamous, adnate to corolla tube, included or exserted; anthers introrse. Ovary narrowly oblong, 3-locular, 2 locules with 2 series of sterile ovules, 1 locule with a single fertile ovule; style filiform; stigmas capitate, white and papillose. Fruit an oblong, leathery achene, crowned with persistent sepals. Seed subterete, testa membranous; endosperm fleshy.