Abutilon: Greenhouse Plants
FF – frost free only/C – cool, minimum of 7°C (45°F) / W – warm, minimum of 13°C (55°F)
mostly South America
A most useful group of plants related to mallows and Hibiscus. The variegated forms are the result of a virus and are quite striking. For the largest flowers try growing the ‘Bella Series’ which, along with other large-flowered hybrids, are best treated as. The secret of success is to sow them early (late February) at 24°C (75°F). While growing them on never allow them to become potbound, moving them on as soon as possible until they reach their final 18 or 20 cm (7 or 8 in) pot. I prefer a loam-based . Plenty of water and feed will be needed to produce the best flowers which are a spectacular 13 cm (5 in) across. Other abutilons are kept going from year to year by which should be 8-10 cm (3-4 in) long with a heel if possible. To get the most out of one stock plant several cuttings can be made from one shoot by cutting above a node at the top and below at the bottom to give stem sections of the required length. The resulting plants will be branched and as many tip cuttings as possible can be taken from these and grown on to make straight plants.
Abutilon striatum ‘Thompsonii’ has bold variegated maple-like leaves and attractive veined orange bell-shaped flowers which an acquaintance once compared rather unglamorously to hung-over eyes. Plants usually reach a good 1.2 m (4 ft) tall before becoming tatty. Similar but daintier is A. X hybridum ‘Savitsii’ which has finer foliage with whiter less regular variegation and a more branching habit. A bold brightly variegated red-flowered hybrid is ‘Cannington Peter’ and ‘Boule de Neige’ has good white flowers. Stock plants can tolerate almost frost free conditions but for growing the plants on warm conditions are required. A. megapotamicum and its variegated form is virtually hardy and is excellent trained against pillar, wall or trellis in a frost free house. A profusion of lantern-shaped flowers with red calyx and canary-yellow petals are borne continuously as long as there is light and warmth. I prefer the plain green leaves of the species as the variegation tends to compete in a rather chaotic way with the flowers. A. X suntense is another frost free contender and has mauve-blue flowers. Any scruffy Abutilon should have side shoots pruned back hard to within a node of older wood in spring.