A large family of tender semi-evergreen shrubs, trees, perennials and annuals. The shrubby forms make attractive plants for the greenhouse or conservatory. They can also be planted outside in sheltered beds and borders, in warmer regions of the UK.
Family: Malvaceae (Mallow)
Botanical Name: Abutilon
Common Names: Indian mallow, Chinese lanterns, flowering maple.
Foliage: Semi-evergreen, simple or maple shaped, green leaves, often covered in soft down.
Flowers: Saucer-shaped or pendulous bowl-shaped flowers, in a range of bright colours. Often fragrant.
Flowering Period: Summer to early autumn.
Soil: Moist but well-drained, fertile soil (sand or loam). Acid or neutral pH.
Conditions: Best in full sun. Grow in an east or south facing aspect, in a sheltered possition.
Habit: Upright, fairly open.
Type: Tender Perennial.
Hardiness: Half-hardy in the UK. Protect from frost.
Many varieties sold in the UK make good specimens for a cool conservatory or greenhouse, were they will flower intermittently for much of the year.
A few varieties are hardy enough to plant outside in the UK. If grown in the open, plant them against a sheltered sunny wall or plant them in containers that can be placed outside in summer and brought in over-winter. Abutilon thrives best in a rich, moisture retentive soil, in full sun.
Several varieties can also be used as exotic summer-bedding. Plant out around the end of May, once all danger of frost is passed. Grow in a sunny sheltered spot, in a fertile, well-drained (but not dry) soil.
Water regularly during dry weather and water container grown plants daily. Water indoor plants sparingly in winter.
To improve flowering, apply an all purpose flowering plant food (slightly higher in phosphorus and potassium) every few weeks, or use a slow release form. Do not over fertilize.
Tie in new shoots to supports as they lengthen, and thin out if overcrowded.
Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period. Trim and cut out old wood in February and prune any shoots killed by frost, back to healthy growth.
Susceptible to attack by whitefly, red spider mite, mealybugs and scale insects (particularly in a greenhouse or conservatory). Generally disease free
Sow seed under cover in early spring.
Shrubs can be increase from semi-ripe cuttings in summer. Take 3-4 inch cuttings of half ripe lateral shoots, preferably without buds or flowers, and root in a propagator in moderate heat (15-18°C).
A number of species are available, along with a number of named hybrids.
Abutilon 'Ashford Red' is an upright plant with large, light-green leaves and large deep rose-red bell-shaped flowers throughout summer. Height to 6ft (2m), spread to 3ft (1m). Available from Burncoose.
Abutilon megapotamicum is one of the hardest forms. It has smaller leaves than most species and yellow funnel/bell shaped flowers that emerge from a red calyx, from summer into autumn. For sale at Crocus. The culticar 'variegatum' has pronounced yellow mottling on the leaves.
Abutilon x hybrida (F1 Hybrid) is available in a range of colours, ideal for conservatories and patio containers that can be moved to a frost free position in winter. Height to 40in (100cm). For sale at Gardening Express.
Abutilon x milleri is a good conservatory variety with large leaves and orange petals with red veins.
Abutilon vitifolium is a short-lived, erect shrub with grey-green hairy leaves and saucer-shaped, pale purplish-blue flowers, in May-July. Height to 10ft (3m), spread 4ft (1.2m) or more. The cultivar 'Alba' is a good white flowering form.