Abutilon has been a favored house plant since Victorian times when it received its nickname, “Parlor Maple.”
Other names: Flowering Maple, Chinese Lantern, Chinese Bellflower
Botanical Name: Abutilon
Abutilon are easy to grow and maintain both indoors and out. Adequate light and water will allow for profuse blooming all summer long, or year-round indoors. Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers of abutilon, so be sure to include them in your hummingbird garden.
Types of Abutilon
Abutilon come in many varieties, with differences in plant size, leaf size and flower size and color. Three popular types are:
Abutilon ‘Bella’ – A compact (dwarf) variety offering large, showy 3″ bell-shaped flowers in a wide range of colors along with the characteristic maple-leaf shaped leaves. ‘Bella’ grows to a height of approximately 16″ and blooms continuously all summer. It prefers fulls sun and tolerates heat well. Abutilon ‘Bella’ is my favorite for indoor indoor hanging baskets and hydroponic grow systems.
Abutilon ‘Bella’ seeds – and other varieties of flowering maple seeds – can be found here.
Abutilon ‘Maximus’ – Large bell-shaped blooms in shades of orange, red and yellow with darker veins, about 1-1/2 to 2″ wide. ‘Maximus’ hybrids grow to a height of 14″ to 36″ outdoors and make excellent border plants. Light pruning throughout the growing season will keep the plants from getting ‘leggy.’
The leaves of Abutilon “Maximus” are sometimes variegated which can be quite striking; however, the variegation is actually due to a type of mosaic virus which does not hurt the plant in any other way. Some growers purposely cultivate infected plants for their pretty mosaic variegation. (If you like the variegation propagation is best accomplished through stem cuttings from a variegated plant since the virus is rarely passed on to the seeds.) Abutilon ‘Maximus’ is my preferred choice for outdoor containers, window boxes and planters.
Abutilon ‘Giant’ – Bell-shaped flowers in shades of yellow, pink, purple, apricot and raspberry. Abutilon ‘Giant’ can grow to a height of approximately 4 feet but can be kept compact when grown as a house plant. The leaves of ‘Giant’ are larger than those of the other two types mentioned, and the flowers are about 2″ wide. Abutilon ‘Giant’ does well in passive hydroponic systems.
How to Grow Abutilon as a House Plant
Abutilon can be propagated from seeds very easily. Abutilon seeds germinate in 3 – 21 days and can reach flowering stage very quickly under high light conditions. If you intend to grow them outdoors sow seeds February to April in pots or trays of moist seed compost and lightly cover with compost or vermiculite. Place in a warm area and keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged.
When large enough to handle transplant seedlings into 3″ pots and gradually acclimatize to outdoor conditions for about two weeks before planting outside (after last risk of frost). To grow as house plants seeds can be planted at any time of year.
Planting Abutilon Seeds
Abutilon seeds will sprout quickly with no special treatment. Seeds can be soaked overnight (8 hrs. or so) before planting but this extra step is not necessary to achieve good germination rates. A heat mat or propagator may be used if your growing area is cool. Light also aids germination so trays should be placed under lights or in a bright window. Seeds can be dropped into pre-soaked peat plugs or Jiffy pellets spaced 2-3″ apart in seedling trays.
Light pruning during the active growing season will prevent plants from becoming leggy. Outdoor plants can be over-wintered indoors, ideally in an enclosed porch or sun room with bright light. Prune back by 30% in late winter to stimulate new growth and blooms in the spring.
Abutilon house plants appreciate light pruning year round which helps to fill out hanging baskets and stimulate new growth.