How to Grow Abutilon Plants
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) 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: 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.