Seldom offered as seed, Abutilon x hybridum is a popular group of hybrids that are frost-tender shrubs typically growing 60 to 90cm (24-36in) 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.
It 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!
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 10-15days 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.
Abutilons are greedy, needing lots of water and nutrients, and they tend to get starved in pots, which makes them ideal plants to grow in a conservatory border. Otherwise, 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.
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.
|Packet Size||20 Seeds|
|Common Name||Chinese Lantern|
|Other Common Names||Chinese Bellflower, Mallow, Flowering Maple|
|Hardiness||Tender Perennial often used as an Annual|
|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|