Seldom offered as seed, Abutilon x hybridum is a popular group of hybrids that are frost-tender shrubs typically growing 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) tall. The lantern-like buds open to solitary, pendulous, bell shaped flowers up to 8cm (3in) diameter.
This is an interesting mixture from a range of colours, from bright red through some lovely pinks pastels and whites. It will astound you in the spring and summer months with its enchanting bell flowers which cover the plant from head to toe.
Abutilon is a tender perennial and needs a nice warm spot in a sheltered garden to show its full potential where it will remain evergreen throughout the year. It can also be grown as a patio or conservatory pot plant.
Protect from hard frosts and these plants will flower from March right through until late September - and if you bring them into a cold greenhouse then they will carry on flowering through the winter too!
Sowing : Sow indoors in late winter to spring.
Sow at temperatures of 16 to 18°C (60 to 65°F), just covering with a thin layer of well drained compost or vermiculite, and place a plastic bag or plastic lid over the seed tray and keep the compost moist but not wet at all times Germination can be erratic: between 30 – 90 days.
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15days before planting out.
Year-round, full sun is not vital, but sunlight in winter is essential if it is to keep flowering. It is hardy to light frost, so can be grown outside, preferably in a sheltered location and against a south-facing wall. In London gardens or in the South-West of the UK, where frosts are rare, it is capable of flowering all through the winter.
Elsewhere it is reasonable to expect winter flowers only in the conservatory. Here, although it will flower at pretty low temperatures, daytime temperatures above 15°C (60°F) will help ensure that buds are produced thick and fast. Established outdoor plants that do get knocked back by frost generally recover with new shoots from the base.
When grown in containers Abutilons tend to be smaller than when in the ground but the advantage of having your plant in a pot means that it can be moved to a warmer site during the colder months.
The larger the container the better, with mature plants doing best in pots at least 40cm (16in) wide. Once they start to look the slightest bit yellow, start regular feeding, or add a slow-release fertiliser to the top 6cm (2.5in) of compost. Tomato feed makes a good fertiliser, as it encourages flowering.
Pot in a soil based compost or a mix which has plenty of loam. Water regularly during spring and summer but be careful not to over water at other times.
Abutilons are greedy, needing lots of water and nutrients, and they tend to get starved in pots. Feed every fortnight whilst flowering. Repot as required, once the roots have emerged from the bottom of your pot, moving on to a pot only slightly larger than the existing one.
An indoor Abutilon will require bright indirect sun from a south or west facing window. Keep an eye out for spider mites, mealy bugs and scale, and inspect all new plants for these and other pests and diseases before bringing them into the house. An indoor Abutilon will enjoy growing outside during the frost free summer months.
Abutilon can grow quite spindly so it is best to reduce the main stem whilst young to encourage a bushier growth. Once established prune back vigorous plants by a third in winter to stop plants getting too leggy and encourage a good shape.
Don't be afraid to prune ruthlessly; cutting back to the base encourages the production of vigorous new shoots. Propagation is very easy, with cuttings of young growth rooting rapidly at almost any time of year.
Arbor or trellis, container plant, espalier, flowering shrub, low maintenance, mixed shrub border and wall side.
Abutilon is a large genus of approximately 150 species of broadleaf evergreens in the mallow family, Malvaceae. The genus includes annuals, perennials, shrubs, and small trees from 1 to 10 m tall, and is found in the tropical and subtropical regions of all continents.
Common names include Chinese Bell Flower, Chinese Lantern, (not to be confused with Physalis), Mallow, Indian Mallow, and Flowering Maple for the maple-like leaves of some species (although the genus is not related to the true maples).
|Packet Size||25 Seeds|
|Common Name||Chinese Lantern|
|Other Common Names||Chinese Bellflower, Mallow, Flowering Maple|
|Hardiness||Tender Perennial often used as an Annual|
|Hardy||Plant can withstand temperatures down to -5°C (23°F)|
|Natural Flower Time||Early to Mid Summer|
|Aspect||Protect from hard frosts.|
|Time to Sow||Sow indoors in late winter to spring at 16 to 18°C (60 to 65°F)|
|Germination||Germination can be erratic: between 30 – 90 days|