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Abutilon - How to grow, propagate and prune.

The Abutilon group are either small trees or shrubs - not always totally hardy. There are several which have Maple-like foliage - sometimes variegated.

Abutilon plantsor flowering maples as also knownhave a dual use for the garden. Their foliage is often attractive with a wide range of flower colours in forms from pendulous bells to open five-petal saucers.

Typical flower of Abutilon shrubs - Abutilon 'Canary Bird'

Not manyif anyof the Abutilon plants are fully hardy, though I have known one or two to live a charmed life through reasonable harsh winters when planted in the right place.

Flowering Maples are generally small to large shrubs, but sometimes small trees owing to their ability to grow on single or multi stemmed central trunk. For most gardeners and gardens in temperate areas, they are shrubs.  

Abutilons are sometimes evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous depending on variety and planting position.

Abitilon - Yellow flowers.

All types - even if stated to be hardy - should be grown in a sheltered place - preferably in full sun. Cuttings from all types are easy to root, and as precaution, cuttings should be taken and over wintered in a frost free environment, to ensure continuation for the following year.

The common name of Flowering Maple describes the foliage rather than flowers, for the leaves are often fully palmate or at least 5-lobed as with many Acers or maples.

 Abutilons are not maples, but belong to the same family as the mallows and HibiscusMalvaceae. Other than botanical detail that determines the family group, all of the flowers share the distinct central style (female) surrounded at the base by the pollen- bearing anthers (male).

Flower colours of the various Abutilons range from deep red, through violet, pale pink and purest white.

Some of the variegated forms make good houseplantsor patio pot plants. All will grow in a container if large enough.

The hardiest of the Abutilon types include the following.....

Abutilon Canary Bird - (image above)Evergreen large shrub or small tree - quick growing and erect in habit. Can reach 10feet in height with not too much of a spread. Yellow flowers - as above - are very attractive and are to be seen from late spring through to fists frosts of Autumn. Often suffers winter scorch and foliage damage in hard winters, but will soo re-grow to fill the original space occupied. Mulch in Autumn to protect roots.

Abutilon Kentish Belle - This evergreen shrub has arching branches which have brown-purple new shoots and pendulous yellow flowers with deep red calyces, which hand down along the new current year's shoots. Can be grown against wall or fence - where it will be hardier.

Abutilon megapotamicum drooping bell flowers

Abutilon megapotamicum -  Unusual in the group as it has a fully pendulous or trailing habit. Foliage is normally evergreen: flowers hang from branches with red calyces and buds from which the yellow flowers emerge - but only a little! Flowers from late Spring through to first Autumn frosts. Does well in a permanent position at foot of sunny wall or fence, with low growing shrubs in front - protecting it through hard winters.


Abutilon x suntense - is a splendid small tree or large shrub, that will grow to 10 feet quite quickly. Erect habit is sometimes a bit lax, but it will respond well to pruning as and when required. The foliage (evergreen) is grey green and downy - not unlike that of the mallow family, for which it is often mistaken.  It has violet mauve bell flowers that open wide - similar to the Canary Bird - and is a showy addition to a sun spot in the garden - or happy wandering over the top of a fence. Quick growing again if damaged in hard winters.
Abitilon x suntense Ralph Gould and A x s, Violetta are my particular favourites, with A x s, Ralph Gould having the slightly larger and open flowers.

Abutilon vitifolium - similar in all respects to Abutilon x suntense - but having white (Abutilon vitifolium var. Album) or pinky mauve (Abutilon vitifolium Veronica Tennant) flowers. The latter has the larges flowers and is a mass of colour throughout late Spring through to Autumn.

Less Hardy Abutilons....

Two are worthy of note - and are good for growing in large patio tubs that can be allowed an extra bit of winter protection....

Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii' - with large mid-green leaves which are splashed with yellow, and soon growing to 8feet! Orange bell flowers - pendant - complete the picture. Plenty of colour and interest for the summer patio. Can also be grown in sheltered, relatively frost-proof area of the garden.

Abutilon 'Souvenir de Bonn' is often sold in garden centres during spring along with the bedding plants. It is attractive because of its yellow edge variegation on dark green glossy leaves, and profusion of orange bell flowers. Over the course of the year - if planted in the garden - it can reach 8 - 10 feet - but will be hit back quite hard with the Autumn frosts. No matter, it is easy to take cuttings, and will often soot out again from the base.

Propagation of Abutilons.

All Abutilons are best grown from cuttings. These can either be softwood cuttings in spring - or semi-ripe cuttings later on in the season.

Some can be grown from seed - but the seed is best obtained from a seed supplier for it is difficult to harvest and store.

Problems with Abutilons...

Whitefly is sometimes a problem if planted outside - as is red spider mite in dry hot summers. Most problems are associated with those grown indoors or in a greenhouse. The list will then extend to mealy bug and brown scale insects.

Pruning Abutilons...

Pruning Flowering Maples - Abutilons - Simply prune as and when required. In particular, after the winter damage, when most types can be cut back quite hard. This will encourage strong growth - which will soon regain its original height.

Abutilon megapotamicum is best pruned less severely, and simply to train along fence or wall - selecting the strongest shoots to build a framework of flowering new shoots.

Other Abutilon Varieties

Abutilon Kentish Belle

Abutilon palmeri

Abutilon theophrasti

Abutilon Pictum

Abutilon hybridum

Abutilon Little Imp

Abutilon Red Tiger

Abutilon indicum

Abutilon striatum

Abutilon incanum

Abutilon fruiticosum



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