Abutilon care and maintenance

What Is Abutilon: Tips For Flowering Maple Care Outdoors

What is abutilon? Also known as flowering maple, parlor maple, Chinese lantern or Chinese bellflower, abutilon is an upright, branching plant with leaves that resemble maple leaves; however, abutilon isn’t a maple and is actually a member of the mallow family. This plant is often grown as a houseplant, but can you grow abutilon in the garden too? Read on to learn more.

Flowering Maple Information

Abutilon is a type of warm weather plant that grows in tropical or sub-tropical climates. Although hardiness varies, abutilon is suitable for growing in USDA zones 8 or 9 and above. In cooler climates, it is grown as an annual or an indoor plant.

Size also varies, and abutilon may be a shrubby plant measuring no more than 19 inches

(48 cm.) in height, or a tree-like specimen as large as six to 10 feet (2-3 m.).

Most attractive are the blooms, which start out as small lantern-shaped buds that open to large, dangling, cup-shaped flowers in shades of orange or yellow, and sometimes pink, coral, red, ivory, white or bicolor.

How to Grow Abutilon Outdoors

Flowering maple thrives in rich soil, but the plant generally does well in nearly any type of moist, well-drained soil. A site in full sunlight is great, but a location in partial shade is fine too, and may actually be preferable in hot climates.

When it comes to flowering maple care in the garden, it is relatively uninvolved. The plant likes moist soil, but never let abutilon become soggy or waterlogged.

You can feed flowering maple every month during the growing season, or use a very dilute solution every other week.

Cut back branches carefully to shape the plant in early spring or late fall. Otherwise, pinch growing tips regularly to promote full, bushy growth and trim as needed to keep the plant neat.

Flowering maple plants are generally not bothered by pests. If aphids, mites, mealybugs or other common pests are an issue, insecticidal soap spray usually takes care of the problem.

  • General Information:

    Feature Description
    Feature Description
    Other names Flowering Maple, Indian Mallow, Velvetleaf, Chinese Lantern, Parlor Maple, Chinese Bellflower
    Origin South America
    Family Malvaceae
    Species More than 200
    Cultivars Tiger Eye, Bartley Schwarz, Apollo, Nabob, Palmeri, Theophrasti, Megapotamicum, Savitzii, Striatum, Nabob, Canary Bird, Fool’s gold, Orange Hot Lava, Voodoo and others
    Hybrids Abutilon x hybridum
    Difficulty level Easy
    Maintenance Low
    Zone 9 to 10
    Plant type Broadleaf evergreen shrub
    Size 2 to 4 feet height and spread
    Growing standarts Woody plant with a single long stem
    Foliage Deeply lobbed or serrated palmate leaves
    Flowers Showy, colors – white, yellow, pink, red
    Blooming time Seasonal
    Temperature Above 65°F/18°C
    Humidity Medium, spray in summers once a week
    Light Part shade or full sun, south-facing window
    Soil Requires additives: perlite or vermiculite, pH – neutral
    Watering Medium
    Fertilizer Every 2 weeks
    Air Likes fresh air
    Caring Prune long stems for bushy plants
    Repotting Roots are growing out of the drainage holes
    Pruning Takes pruning well
    Propagation By cuttings
    Problems Whiteflies, red spider mites
    Toxic Сontact with skin may cause irritation
    Design Specimen plant. Goes well with Salvia and Clematis along walls

    Abutilon Photos:

    Detailed Information:

    Abutilons are commonly called “Flowering Maples” because of the shape of the leaves, and other times called “Chinese Lantern” because of their colorful, dangling blooms. The term ”Chinese Lantern” may lead one to believe they originate in China, but these tropical hibiscus-related plants are actually from South America.

    Growth Habits

    Some Abutilons are vigorous growers with an upright growth habit that can reach eight feet or more in height. Others tend to follow a compact growth habit with a more bush-like appearance. Many of the more compact growers are perfect for decorative containers or hanging baskets.

    Although some Abutilons will do fine with a lot of sunlight, most would prefer a shady nook and a regular supply of water. Most Abutilons are hybrids and are easy to grow and propagate.

    Once established, they lean toward the tough side of drought tolerance. An amended well drained soil is recommended. Although Abutilons are fairly disease resistant, they may at times be prey to white flies on the leaves, but the degree of damage done by this pest may be lessened if plants are given good aeration. These plants respond very well to pruning. If cut back severely in the fall, they recover their vigorous growth in the spring.


    Whether they are called Abutilons, Flowering Maples, or Chinese Lanterns, their use is as versatile as the label you apply to them. They are useful in many gardens as a background shrub, in a hanging basket, or trained as a standard. They also are well suited for porch containers. They can grow to 10 feet and tolerate radical pruning well.

    Abutilons bloom throughout the year with a minimum of care; they produce quantities of open-faced blossoms over a prolonged period of time. The blossoms are 2 – 3 inches in diameter, borne singly, with plenty of buds showing color simultaneously. In Southern California abutilons grow in many different light conditions, shade, filtered sun, and bright sunlight.

    • Abutilons can stand a wide range of temperatures from cool to very hot; however, they dry out and wilt rapidly. Fortunately, they bounce back from occasional negligence. They like moist, well drained, amended soil.
    • Abutilons have a healthy appetite. Feed them once every 3 – 4 weeks with 20-20-20 or any balanced fertilizer. If an abutilon becomes root-bound or hungry, its leaves turn yellow and drop.

    Abutilons are an easy to grow perennial and a rewarding choice for any Southern California garden AND they attract Hummingbirds.


    Abutilons are prone to whiteflies and red spider mites. To combat whiteflies, use yellow sticky traps. To control red spider mites wash the leaves with a brisk spray of chilly water. Occasionally scale or aphids will be attracted to the plants, but they can be treated with insecticidal soap.

    Potting and Repotting

    Soil Considerations

    Soil that is to be used as growing media in the pots should include additives such as perlite or vermiculite. This will help to create a loose and friable growing media that will allow for easy penetration by the plants roots. It will also help to retain water and nutrients, and promote good drainage. If the intention is to keep the plant in the pot as a container plant, a good option would be to use a commercial potting mix.


    Soil should be moist when potting and repotting. When abutilon cuttings are ready to be removed from their small starter containers and placed in pots, fill the pot with soil about 2/3 full; then mix in some Osmacoat, and tamp the soil down with another pot bottom or by hand. Normally, the small new plants are put into 1 gallon pots to further develop their root system before being planted in a larger container or in the garden. The roots of the new plant should be “ruffed up” and set into the pot and covered with soil. At this point, the plant will be firmly planted, upright, and able to stand on its own. Slowly add water until water runs out of the bottom of the pot. Repeat watering until the container is well saturated.

    Repotting Established Plants

    When an established plant becomes rootbound, it will need to be repotted. Signs of a rootbound plant include:

    • The pot has filled with roots and there is very little soil left
    • The plant wilts within a day or two of watering
    • The roots are growing out of the drainage holes

    It may be necessary to gently pop the plant out of its container and take a look at the roots. If it is desired that the plant will remain in the same pot rather than moving it to a larger pot, the plant can be root-pruned. After gently removing it from the pot, use a Sharpe knife to shave off an inch or two from all sides and from the bottom of the root ball. Place fresh potting soil in the bottom of the pot; then put the plant back in, and add fresh potting soil around the sides.


    Propagation by Cuttings

    The ideal time to take cuttings is when the plant has begun its active growth cycle in early spring. The ‘stock’ plant should be healthy and well branched to ensure the health of the new clones. Using a sharp clean knife, take a cutting 3 or 4 inches in length from the top growing tips or vigorous side shoots. The cut should be made at a slight angle, just below a node (The point on the stem where a leaf has developed). Trim off any flower buds and the lower leaves from the cutting, leaving a stem with 3-4 leaves at the tip, cut these leaves in half. Cutting the leaves helps to prevent loss of water.

    Preparing the Cutting

    1. Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone such as Rootone® or Hormonex® about ¼ inch deeper than it will be set in the planting medium.
    2. Use a separate container for this to avoid contaminating the rooting hormone in the original container.
    3. Alternately, place some rooting hormone on a clean paper towel and push the appropriate portion of the cutting into the rooting hormone.
    4. Then, tap off any excess powder and insert the cutting into a hole in the planting medium with at least one, but preferably 2-3 nodes covered.

    The nodes are where the new roots will emerge. The hole made previously should be wide enough that none of the rooting hormone will be scraped off during planting.

    Planting Medium

    Various types of planting medium can be successfully used. Sterile moist sand, vermiculite, sphagnum moss, or a mixture of 80% perlite and 20% peat moss will all allow for easy water penetration and fast drainage.

    However, sand will require frequent watering. A perlite and peat moss mixture is a good choice because it provides a good starting medium and retains moisture better than sand. Small PotWater the rooting medium well.

    Create a mini-greenhouse over the container with poly film over a wire frame (an old aquarium works very well for this) and place it in a bright, warm spot (NOT full sun).

    Keep the cuttings at a minimum temperature of 72 degrees, and you will be rewarded with several new plants in just a few weeks.

    Keep in mind that when you are doing any type of plant propagation that you are doing “plant surgery”, and that cleanliness is extremely important. Always use a clean, sharp knife and sterile potting medium for the best results!

    Please, let us know in comments if any information is missing. Questions, advice and your experience is always welcome and appreciated.

    • Abutilon: Flowering Maple

      Facts: Abutilon

      Family: Malvaceae

      Genus: Abutilon

      Common Name: Flowering Maple, Chinese Lantern (not to be confused with Physalis), and Indian Mallow

      Origin: Species come from South or Central America, Australia, and AfricAbutilon

      Culture: This genus enjoys having light shade to full sun. Its bell shaped flowers range in color from white through pink, and from yellow to orange all the way to a deep bronzy red. Its leaves are palmate like a maple hence the common name ‘Flowering Maple’. In our climate it is mostly grown as an annual but it is possible to over winter them in a protected spot like a porch or by bringing them inside during the colder months.

      Maintenance: Give plenty of water especially on the hottest summer days. Provide good drainage. Fertilizing once a week, during the growing season, will extend the blooms. Plants can be pruned to desired shape and even cut back hard in early spring to control size.

      Pests & Diseases: Aphids and slugs can be a challenge for these plants outdoors. When brought indoors they can be susceptible to houseplant pests such as whiteflies, spider mites, scale, and mealybugs. These can be treated with insecticides. Common diseases include root rot, rust, and leaf spot. These can be controlled by providing good air circulation, keeping the leaves dry and if necessary using a fungicide.

      Flowering Maple

      Long a favorite in Florida gardens, flowering maples continue to win new fans in other regions of the South. This group of semitropical shrubs grows quickly and produces attractive blooms nearly continuously in warm weather. Provide moist, fertile, well-drained soil; watch out for whiteflies and scale insects. Excellent in containers on porch, deck, or patio; in cold-winter areas, bring inside to a sunny window before frost. Easily propagated from cuttings taken from current season’s growth. Do not overfeed with nitrogen or you’ll get lots of leaves and few flowers. In areas where cold hardiness is questionable, be sure plants have good drainage in winter.

      abutilon hybrids

      • Also grown as annuals in colder climates.
      • The best-known flowering maples.
      • Upright, arching growth to 410 feet tall, with equal spread.
      • Broad, maple-like leaves can reach 8 inches across; drooping, bell-like, 2- to 3 inches flowers come in white, yellow, pink, or red.
      • The following are all good choices.

      Bartley Schwartz

      • Arching and weeping, with nearly constant production of orange-yellow, drooping blossoms.
      • Good hanging basket plant or standard.

      Bella series. Assorted colors, seed grown. 3 inches flowers on plants 1418 inches tall.

      Boule de Neige

      • Large, vigorous, upright plant with white flowers.

      Canary Bird

      • 3 inches., clear yellow flowers from early summer to frost.


      • Compact.
      • Red-orange bells over a long season.

      Crimson Belle

      • Deep red blossoms.

      Dwarf Red

      • Compact and free branching, with orange-red flowers.

      Fairy Coral Red

      • Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 711.
      • 12- to 18 inches-tall plants with salmon-pink flowers.

      Fool’s Gold’. Upright to 4 feet.; rust-colored pendant flowers from early summer to frost.

      Kentish Belle

      • Trailing habit; yellow-orange flowers.

      Kristen’s Pink’. Compact to 2 feet Pink, 3 inches flowers are ideal for garden or container.

      Linda Vista Peach

      • Orange petals protrude from deep pink calyxes.

      Little Imp

      • Narrow yellow flowers with red calyxes.
      • Compact plant with arching habit.

      Lucky series. Red, tangerine, white, or yellow flowers on compact, 12 inches plants.

      Marion Stewart

      • Upright-growing plant producing orange flowers with attractive red veins.

      Mobile Pink

      • Upright, compact growth.
      • Large, wide-open flowers in pale pink with deeper pink veining.


      • Yellow flowers on a compact plant.

      Orange Hot Lava

      • Orange and red bells begin early summer on a 4 feet-tall plant.


      • Upright to 6 feet Bell-shaped red flowers bloom late summer to fall.

      trailing abutilon

      abutilon megapotamicum

      • Vine-shrub from Brazil.
      • Vigorous growth to 10 feet and as wide, with arrowlike, 112- to 3 inches-long leaves.
      • Red-and-yellow, 112 inches flowers resembling tiny lanterns gaily decorate the long, rangy branches in spring and summer.
      • Pinch branch tips to control size, force bushier growth.
      • More graceful in detail than in entirety but can be trained to an interesting pattern.
      • Usually best as loose, informal espalier.
      • Good hanging basket plant.
      • Marianne has better, more intense flower color; ‘Variegatum’ has leaves mottled with yellow; ‘Victory’ is compact and floriferous, with small deep yellow flowers.

      flowering maple

      abutilon pictum

      • Maplelike leaves with showy flowers.

      Souvenir de Bonn

      • Upright to 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
      • Orange flowers with green, cream-edged foliage.


      • Erect grower to 12 feet tall and 512 feet wide.
      • Mottled yellow and green variegated leaves accent pale orange bells veined with red.

      chilean tree mallow

      abutilon vitifolium

      • From Chile.
      • To 15 feet tall, 8 feet wide.
      • Gray-green, maple-like leaves to 6 inches or longer.
      • In summer, lilac-blue to white flowers are borne singly or in clusters on long stalks.
      • Needs high humidity.
      • Tennants White’ is a choice form.


      Abutilon Red Tiger is one of those ‘once seen, never forgotten’ kind of plants. It was indeed a long time before we actually saw it for ourselves, having heard of it in faraway places, typically the United States, and having looked at it longingly in photos on the internet. We were smitten and undertook an ongoing search for this seemingly mythical thing of beauty. That search is now over and we are delighted to be able to offer Red Tiger on the UK market.

      So what’s all the fuss about? It’s all about the flowers, of course. Ah, those flowers – pendant, yellow to orange globes veined in dark red hanging in profusion from the arching branches among the jagged pointed foliage, and doing so over a remarkably long period, virtually year-round given the right conditions. A sheltered spot against a wall in a city garden will suit it perfectly, but we like it as a freestanding speciment in a large pot so it can do its thing on the patio throughout summer and then become an indoor beauty in the winter. If you want to let it grow full height, some form of support is advisable, but by pruning to check the growth and promote branching, you can create a more rounded self-supporting shrub. Prune back fairly hard in spring and at intervals during the season to keep the shape you want.

      We were attending a plant fair at West Woodhay Manor in 2017 and there was a lovely specimen of Abutilon Red Tiger in a pot with a trellis frame in the conservatory there. Unsurprisingly sales of the plant in question went very well indeed on our stand!

      As for the origins of Red Tiger, it certainly seems to be a variant of Abutilon Pictum aka Striatum. There are a few other similar varieties out there, but Red Tiger has to be the king of them all. Certainly just about anyone who visits the nursery and sees it in flower finds they have to buy one!

      Abutilon Red Tiger is a fairly hardy evergreen shrub with hanging bell shaped orange yellow flowers with red veining in spring, summer and autumn.

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