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How to Grow and Care for Abutilon Plants


Looking for some easy tips on how to grow Abutilon plants, pronounced A-buh-TY-luhn? Well, read on friends, because we’ve got all the information you need to grow and care for your Abutilon.


The Beauty of Abutilon

A nearly year-round show of delicate, crepe-papery blossoms on gently drooping stems makes Abutilon a charming ornamental plant. The flowers are available in a wide variety of bright and interesting colors, including vivid reds and yellows, pure white, distinctly and colorfully veined, and oh-so-many more to choose from. Also known as the Flowering Maple or Chinese Lantern, its foliage can be as varied as its blossoms, depending, of course, upon the cultivar. Called the Flowering Maple due to the original, deeply-lobed leaves, similar to a maple tree, you will now find foliage colors ranging from chartreuse to forest green, with some leaves being mottled or variegated in yellow on green. The leaves can also vary in shape, some cultivars bearing heart-shaped, others serrated, and yet others sporting spear-shaped leaves.  

Abutilon can also be grown indoors as colorful and lush houseplants or grown outdoors in summer and brought indoors as the weather turns cold.  A single parent plant can reward the gardener with a generous supply of new plants. See How to Propagate Abutilon below.


How to Grow Abutilon: Proper Care

Give it good light and proper care, and your Abutilon will reward you with a steady show of lovely flowers. Abutilon performs best with temperatures between 65° and 75°F and with a lot of bright, though somewhat indirect sunlight. Water thoroughly and then let plants dry until the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch before watering again. Feed monthly with an all-purpose (20-20-20) fertilizer. Abutilon will likely survive the winter outdoors in zones 8-10, but in all other zones needs to be treated as an annual.


How to Overwinter Abutilon

As frost approaches, bring your Abutilon indoors and place it where it gets adequate sunlight.  You can easily overwinter your plants inside; however, due to the drier air in heated homes, you should probably mist your Abutilon plants every few days. You can also set your pots  on a tray of damp pebbles to add moisture to their environment and to prevent the occurrence of spider mites.


How to Propagate Abutilon

First, in spring or summer, choose a healthy plant with a lot of foliage and one that is free from diseases or pests. Use a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears or stout scissors to cut a 4-inch long stem, ensuring that there are at least 2 nodes on the stem. The nodes are that bump where the stem and the leaves meet and where almost all plants will grow roots when being propagated. Remove all of the leaves, leaving only 2 or 3 leaves at the top of the cutting. Doing this will encourage the plant to use its energy for root growth, rather than trying to nurture too many leaves.  We recommend you use a rooting hormone powder to enhance root growth and to increase your chances of successful propagation. Plant the cutting in well-draining soil, watering the soil lightly and covering with a clear plastic baggie or cloche dome to create the ideal environment for this new plant. Place your pot close to a window where bright indirect light is available, keeping the soil moist, but not waterlogged. When you see new growth appear at the top of the stem, usually after about 3 weeks, you will know that the rooting is a success! Give it a few more weeks, then transplant it into a larger pot with fresh potting soil and adequate drainage. We recommend putting your pots on wheeled trolleys to make it easier to move them in and out of doors as the weather permits.


How to Prune Abutilon

Abutilon plants can easily be pruned to produce a bushier and more compact shrub. Depending upon your plant’s current shape and size, you can cut stems from between 2 to 12 inches, spreading the cuts evenly around your plant to maintain a more balanced and symmetrical shape. These cuttings can then be given new life by following the tips above for propagation. If you want new branches, simply pinch off new growth with your fingers right above a node where you want to see new branches appear. If needed, you can hard prune your Abutilon plant after the last hard frost in the early spring. Leggy branches and overgrown plants can be pruned back to a foot or two; stand back every once in a while to ensure you are getting the desired results. Never, however, remove more than 1/3 of your plant’s total height. Be aware that blooming may be affected for the season following a hard prune but your plant will leaf out beautifully throughout the summer. The following spring you will have an abundance of buds and blossoms.  


Abutilon Garden Design Ideas

Bush Rose, Petunia, Lobelia, Japanese Aralia, and Licorice plants are all good companions for your flowering maple plant. In addition to being grown in pots or hanging baskets, you can train Abutilon plants into a tree-like shape by tying the main stem to a sturdy stake or trellis. To do this, pinch off or cut all of the branches  that grow from the lowest 15 inches of the main stem and then tie loosely with twine or use flower and vine clips to attach your plant to its support.


Are you excited to try your hand at growing abutilon? We’re excited for you! Check out our selection and get growing


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