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Growing Abutilon Flowers (Parlor Maple, Chinese Bellflower): An Irresistible Hummingbird-Magnet | North American Farmer

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Growing Abutilon Flowers

About Abutilon: Showcase Hummingbird-Magnet Blooms in Your Garden

by Frances Santos

Growing Abutilon FlowersAbutilon flowers can effortlessly capture your eyes with their pendant bell-shaped blooms.

It has been one of the favored ornamental house plants and garden border plants since Victorian times. It was during this time that it received its nickname “Parlor Maple”.

Abutilon is also called many other names like Flowering Maple, Chinese Bellflower and Chinese Lantern.

It is commonly grown as an annual but in colder climates, Abutilon is grown as herbaceous perennial. The most common types are Bella, Maximus, and Giant. This five petal bloom can grow eight inches tall if planted outdoors. Potted plants are smaller in height.

When looking at the structure of its flowers, there is a close similarity to hibiscus. That’s because these two exotic blooms are closely related. Both produce dozens of blooms in splashes of colors, including white, yellow, orange, pink, red, deep coral, and bi-colors.

Abutilon is not related to maple trees, but it is endowed with maple-like, palmately lobed or unlobed foliage. The summer and fall-flowering blooms attract hummingbirds.  This is why it is ideal for hummingbird gardens. The key to success is lots of sun and good water drainage.

Abutilon Propagation

Abutilon is easy to propagate and maintain. It can be grown indoors or outdoors. Adequate light and water will enable it to bloom throughout the year. Plants can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. Let’s discuss how plants are propagated by seeds:

Propagating Abutilon Indoors

Seeds are usually soaked about 8 hours before planting but this is not really necessary for good germination rates. If your growing area is cold, a heat mat or propagator can be used. Light is very important for germination so the trays should be placed in a well-lit area like beside a window. Seeds should be placed approximately three inches apart in seedling trays for ideal growth. Seeds germinate 3 to 21 days without special treatment.

Propagating Abutilon Outdoors

If you prefer growing directly in your garden, a permanent well-tilled spot with good drainage and light exposure must be chosen. Abutilons do not like to be transplanted once established, so make sure to select a location that has room.  Cover the seeds lightly with compost or vermiculate.  Water thoroughly to collapse air pockets, but it should not be waterlogged.

How to Grow Abutilon

When seedlings (grown indoors) are large enough, transfer them into 3-inch pots and gradually accustom to outdoor conditions for around 2 to 3 weeks. Plant the seedlings outside when there is no risk for frost. As house plants, it can be planted anytime throughout the year. Abutilons can quickly reach the flowering stage when under high light conditions.

For mulching, use about 2-inch layer of organic mulch and apply it around the roots. Use more mulch if necessary. Compost, shredded bark and leaf mold are ideal to use. Many benefits of mulching include richer soil, prevention of moisture loss, and keeping the weeds down.

During the first few years, plants need periodic watering to keep the surrounding soil moist. The leaves usually drop if water is not sufficient. However, these may recover if watered in time.

Avoid overhead watering to prevent formation of fungus and bacteria. Water your plants directly at the roots or on the branches. Cut back watering gradually as the plant matures. By its third year, you may water the plants only during drought/dry season. Also remember not to over water during the winter because soggy soil will kill Abutilons.

Perhaps because Abutilons bloom profusely, they are usually heavy feeders. Plants must be fed every other week with a dilute, high quality water-soluble fertilizer. For indoors, stop fertilizing November through January to let the plant rest. Use fast-acting fertilizer or a slow-release formula.

Caring for Abutilon

Light pruning can be performed during the active growth season to prevent that leggy appearance. Pruning controls size and structure and stimulates new branch growth.  Outdoor plants can be placed indoors during winter preferably in an enclosed area with bright light.  Encourage new blooms by cutting back fading flowers.

Pests and Diseases

Mealybugs, whiteflies and spider mites are the common pests that attack plants. Common diseases include rust, root rot, Cercospora leaf spot and Alternaria. Control Abutilion diseases by keeping good air circulation and drainage. Apply fungicide if necessary.