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Abutilon - Care Guide
Flowering maple, Indian mallow
Abutilons have great merit both as freestanding garden shrubs and as being wall or pergola shrubs. They can be evergreen or deciduous (at least in colder parts of the country but usually not in Cornwall) and some are perfectly hardy down to say -5°C of frost while others are not. Those that will not tolerate temperatures of more than about 0°C are best grown as conservatory plants in large containers or pots or, perhaps, as summer bedding plants as you often see them in municipal plantings in public places. Especially when grown under glass, these vigorous plants will need a regular hard pruning in early spring to rejuvenate them and increase the amount of flower on the new growth in subsequent years. Freestanding deciduous forms may be short lived (10 to 15 years), because they grow so tall so quickly, but they are best left completely unpruned as tall growing shrubs outside in the garden. Indoors you may get away with a rather lighter pruning on younger plants simply to keep them under control.
All abutilon grow best in full sun (rather than shade) in a reasonably fertile but well drained soil.
Deciduous or semi deciduous, freestanding, and reasonably hardy abutilons:
A. x suntense is a fast growing shrub which can readily grow to 10-12ft. There is a beauty at the nursery entrance! It has an upright habit and grey felted shoots. In late spring, and right on through the summer, it has long stalked saucer shaped dark mauve to blue flowers which hang down in clusters.
A. vitafolium ‘Album’ is even taller growing and more vigorous with a tree-like habit and, usually, a single leading branched stem. We find it easier to grow this spectacular species from seed rather than cuttings. The shoots are grey felted and the leaves are hairy and grey-green with whiter undersides. Large clusters of pendant white saucer-shaped flowers appear in early summer and carry on through well into autumn.
Evergreen abutilon that are reasonably hardy:
A. ‘Kentish Belle’ grows as a multi stemmed plant to around 8ft in height if left unpruned and may become semi-evergreen in colder winters. It has very attractive, pendant, bell shaped flowers which are apricot-yellow on the new shoots from summer through to autumn. The flowers have prominent red calyxes. This is a very popular variety which is easy to grow. It performs best beside a wall, or path, or even on a dry bank where you can look up at the flowers.
A. megapotamicum, the trailing abutilon from Brazil, has long arching shoots which means that this plant is best grown as a climber and tied into a trellis, pergola or wall in full sun. Again it may become semi evergreen in a cold winter. It has pendant bell shaped flowers with bright red calyxes covering the yellow flowers which emerge from below. Purple stamens protrude from the flower itself. Again, this species flowers only on the new growth in summer and through well into autumn.
A. megapotamicum ‘Variegatum’ has prominent yellow mottling to its green leaves.
Evergreen abutilon that are frost tender:
All grow, if left, untrimmed and pruned, to around 10ft. They all flower unchecked from spring to autumn.
A. ‘Ashford Red’ – deep red flowers in profusion
A. ‘Canary Bird’ – pure yellow flowers
A. ‘John Thompson’ – golden yellow flowers
A. ‘Orange Hot Lava’ – striking orange-red flowers with darker red calyxes
A. ‘Nabob’ – deep crimson flowers
A. ‘Patrick Synge’ – flame red flowers