Abutilon—Growing Flowering Maple Inside

abutilon, flowering maple
Abutilon species feature lovely pendant flowers. Photo © Pressebereich Dehner Garten-Center/Flickr

There are two excellent reasons to grow Abutilon species: the flowers or the blooms. In general, the plants feature deeply lobed leaves reminiscent of maple leaves, although these loose-growing shrubs are in no way related to maple trees. Variegated species are grown for their striking, exotic-looking leaves, while flowering species have solid green leaves and lovely, pendant flowers in a variety of colors.

Although these aren't the most common houseplants around, extensive work has been done with a handful of species to produce a variety of beautiful cultivars that are prized for their leaf shape and flower color. In terms of culture, these are not particularly difficult plants to grow and prefer a cooler winter room with less water, then warmth and adequate moisture in the summer. For best results, prune the plants to encourage bushiness.

Growing Conditions:

Light: Ideally, they should receive a few hours of direct sunlight, making an east-facing window the perfect situation throughout the summer. In the winter, you can safely reduce light, but the shortening light cycle will probably be adequate so you don't need to move the plant.
Water: During the summer growth period, let the soil dry to 1" between waterings, then give adequate water until it runs through the pot. In the winter, reduce the watering to monthly.

It also helps to mist plants weekly or so throughout the winter to prevent pest infections.
Soil: A rich, peat-based potting soil with excellent drainage is beneficial.
Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. Reduce or stop fertilizer entirely in the winter.

Propagation:

Abutilon propagates easily from stem-tip cuttings.

Some experts recommend taking new cuttings every three years or so to start new stock and disposing of older plants. However, with proper pruning, there's no reason you can't keep an Abutilon houseplant thriving for many years. A rooting hormone will increase your chances of success. Take cuttings in the spring and place in seed-starting soil in a warm, bright room.

Repotting:

Abutilon is a relatively fast-growing plant, especially when they're young. Consequently, younger plants might need to be repotted twice a year, once at the beginning of the growing season and once in the middle. Older plants, however, benefit from being slightly pot-bound, so should be repotted either every other year or yearly into only slightly larger pots. Pot-bound plants tend to grow more vigorously and bloom better.

Varieties:

There are several species of Abutilon, and then a greater number of cultivars. The most common flowering variety is the A. hybridum, which has been introduced in a number of varietals with names like Canary Bird, Fireball, and Boile de Neige. These plants are classified based on their flower color. The foliage species are dominated by A. straitum thompsonii, which will grow to five feet high in its natural environment and features beautifully variegated and speckled leaves.

Grower's Tips:

Abutilon is not an especially difficult plant to grow. During warmer, dry winters, they are sometimes affected by spider mites, and they are known for leggy growth. To encourage bushy growth, prune the plant by 25 percent to 40 percent in the late winter, right when new growth is about to start. Also, throughout the summer, occasionally pinch off new growth to encourage healthy growth. When pruning, make sure to stagger your cuts and remove some large branches to open the plant's canopy. As a final note, these plants dislike acidic soil, so it is not necessary to add additional lime to your potting mix. Instead, stick with the basic peat-based potting soil and make sure to refresh it as the mixture decomposes and becomes more acidic over time.