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How to Grow Abutilon Plants

Abutilon plants growing in a container

Here are some easy tips for how to grow your abutilon plants: Given good light and proper care, abutilon rewards its keeper with a steady show of lovely hibiscus-like flowers, available in a wide range of dazzling colors. Does best with temperature between 65 and 75 degrees. Abutilon plants need bright light.  Water thoroughly and then let plants dry until the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch before watering again. Feed monthy with an all purpose (20-20-20) liquid fertilizer. As frost approaches, bring abutilon indoors.  It can be overwintered inside, but when the air is very dry, mist every few days or set plants on a bed of damp pebbles to prevent problems with spider mites. In spring or summer, take 4-inch-long stem tip cuttings and put to root in damp seed-starting mix. Use rooting hormone powder, and transplant to any peaty potting soil after 4 to 6 weeks; set three rooted cuttings in a 6 in. container. In about a month, repot individual plants to 8 in. pots. Never add lime, since abutilon does best in acid soil.

Description: A mass of handsome drooping flowers (1 to 3 in. long) blooming nearly year-round makes the abutilon plant a favorite accent plant for indoor blooming. The Chinese bellflower, or Indian mallow, does well in the greenhouse or window box. This exotic tropical transplant comes in many different forms: handsome, erect, tree-like specimens; shrubby, herbaceous mounds; and long, trailing vines. The five-lobed leaves are usually edged or attractively mottled with white. The papery blossoms come in a wide range of bright colors, including vivid reds and yellows, pure white, striped, and many more in between. The flowering maple with solid green leaves is thought to be the strongest grower. Abutilon are most often grown indoors as colorful and lush houseplants, being treated like geraniums or fuchsias (placed outdoors in summer and brought indoors as the weather turns cold.)

Origin of Plant Name: In the18th century a Scottish botanist named Philip Miller changed the original Arabic name to its present form.

Propagation: Easily grown from seed. If started outdoors as annuals, abutilon may be lifted, cut back, and potted in the fall to bring indoors. This way it flowers during the winter, and may grow up to several feet.  It also grows from stem-tip cuttings taken anytime during active plant growth. Young plants should be staked and pinched back frequently to encourage the growth of side branches, or they become spindly.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 8-10

Growth and Shape:  Regularly pruned, abutilon plants keep a bushy shape of 18 in. Tied to sturdy stakes, upright plants can easily reach 3 ft. They tend to be leggy, so careful pruning (by 1/3 their size in spring) just before the vigorous flush of new growth keeps the flowering maple in check.

Maintenance: Repot young abutilon plants every 6 months or so to allow room for growing roots. After plants fill an 8-inch pot (usually when they are 3 yrs. old), start new plants from stem tip cuttings.

Attributes: A nearly year-round show of delicate papery blossoms on gently drooping stems makes abutilon a charming ornamental plant. Extensive hybridization has produced dozens of cultivars with a wide range of colors, including contrasting veining.  A single parent plant will reward the gardener with a generous supply of new plants.  Display Tips: Bush rose, petunia, lobelia, Japanese aralia, and licorice plant are all good companions to the flowering maple plant. In addition to being grown in pots or hanging baskets, abutilon plants can be trained to a tree-like shape by tying the main stem to a sturdy stake. Pinch off all branches that grow from the lowest 15 in. of stem.

Special thanks to Cathy from Words and Herbs for the beautiful abutilon photo.

13 Responses to “How to Grow Abutilon Plants”

  1. Faith Vaslev says:

    I just purchased two Abutilon ‘Red Tigers’yesterday.
    They are only about 5 to 6 inches tall. So my questions are:
    I will be potting them so I can move them in & out as the weather permits, so what would be a good container soil mix for them once I am ready to transplant them?
    What is the right pH for them?
    Being the heights given above, how old do you think they are? They are currently in 4″ grow pots.
    Thank you

  2. jstutzman says:

    Faith, any potting mix for containers or baskets will do just great for your Abutilon. We prefer Pro-Mix Ultimate Potting Mix, http://www.gardenharvestsupply.com/ProductCart/pc/PREMIER-Pro-Mix-Ultimate-Potting-Mix-1-Cubic-Foot-p518.htm

    Your plants are probably around 3 months old. Good luck with your plants!

  3. Pam says:

    I purchased a red tiger maple in a 4″ container in late May. We planted it on the west side of our home and watched it grow to 10′. I was advised to prune it back three feet. It really began blooming after it was pruned. Today it has 12 blooms. The blooms are spectacular! Should I move it inside for the winter? I also have a start and another plant, still in the plastic 8″ pot, and don’t want to lose any of them.

  4. jstutzman says:

    Hello Pam.

    Unless you live in zones 8-11, you should bring your Abutilon plant inside during your cold temperature months. They also make lovely houseplants. Here is more info on growing them inside: http://blog.gardenharvestsupply.com/2012/11/19/how-to-grow-abutilon-plants/

    Good luck!

  5. Penny says:

    I have a three foot abutilon, when I normally grow it indoors, it seems to weep a sticky substance. Is this normal? I moved it outside this summer because of it.
    Can I prevent the weeping stickiness, it kind of makes a mess.

  6. jstutzman says:

    Penny, sounds like you had an aphid problem that has now turned into a disease. Here is more info. Leaving it outside should help it to clear up. Good luck. Joe

  7. Penny says:

    Thanks Joe, I will be patient as it is now outside, but will keep in mind what the article you shared says about neem oil.

  8. Pat says:

    How long from seed sprouting to flowering, please? I started a packet this spring and am curious.

  9. jstutzman says:

    Pat, did you plant it outside or inside? It normally only takes 3 days for germination with soil temps around 70 degrees. The seeds must moist at all times. Joe

  10. INEZ NICHOLS says:

    I have a red tiger abulition that i let get too wet its leaves all wilted then shed. Now all i have is the main stalk will it come back? I got it dried out and made sure its draining better but still no leaves.

  11. jstutzman says:

    I would go ahead and cut it back. It should pop out new growth in a few weeks. Good luck.

  12. Kathee says:

    I was just given a huge potted Red Tiger Abutilon that had been living squashed in a corner with no sun. It is at least 6 ft tall with many stalks and very gangly. So gangly in fact it looks almost like a weeping tree. It is now in a nice sunny spot and being cared for and fed. It has started to reward me with stunning flowers. But it is so gangly and such a mess of branches going this way and that before they bend and droop from the weigh their growth. Shall I wait until spring to trim it and then what is the best way to do so? Thank you for your help!

  13. jstutzman says:

    Kathee, are you keeping this plant indoors? What hardiness zone are you in? With these answers I will be able to give you a better answer. Joe

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