What is Abutilon?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2019
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Abutilon is a genus of flowering evergreen plants found throughout the tropics and subtropics of the world. In addition to growing in nature, these plants are cultivated in gardens, and a number of cultivars have been developed. They are also used as houseplants in regions of the world where they cannot safely be grown outdoors. Nursery and garden supply stores often carry Abutilon cultivars and they can also be ordered directly from companies that grow them, or grown from seeds and cuttings provided by other gardeners.

These plants are members of the mallow family and a number of common names are used to refer to Abutilon species, including Chinese bellflower, Chinese lantern, flowering maple, and Indian mallow. Although they are not maples or related to maples, some species superficially resemble maples because of the broad, lobed leaves and highly branched growth habit.

Abutilon species cultivated in gardens produce large, bell-shaped flowers in colors like red, orange, and yellow. They will flower profusely if they are grown in an environment they enjoy and can also be encouraged to flower indoors. Outdoors, the climate needs to be very warm, approximating that found in United States Department of Agriculture zones 10 and 11, and the plants should be grown in rich, well-drained soil that retains moisture well. Partial sun is recommended to provide the plants with some relief during the hottest part of the day.


These plants can be grown as specimen or massed plantings, and some species can be trained to grow well in hedges and other garden features. They also make excellent cut flowers, as the large, showy blooms are visually interesting and hold their shape and color well after cutting. People interested in exotic color patterns can peruse gardening catalogs to look at available hybrids and see if any strike their eyes.

When growing Abutilon indoors, people should be aware that these plants do not have a dwarf growth habit and they can grow extremely large if they are given enough room. It is advisable to grow them in a large room and to use a medium to small container to force the plant to stay small. The plants can be shaped and controlled with trimming, and using fertilizer sparingly will also help prevent them from growing enormous indoors. As with outdoor plants, the soil should be rich and well drained, and it is important to prevent the plants from sitting in soggy soil.



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