If you love Malvaceae, you will almost certainly know the Abutilon and its articulated blooms: its name has Arabic origins and means, precisely, “Indian Malva”. Despite this, its origins are to be found elsewhere and precisely in South America, the place from which this evergreen shrub spread all over the world.
Commonly called “Flowering Maple”, probably due to the shape of its leaves, large and palmate like those of the maple, in reality it is in no way linked to that species.
Flowering is very elegant and varies from flowers similar to bluebells or hybiscus, to the more well-known “Chinese lanterns” of the Megapotamicum variety: it begins in spring and lasts until late autumn.
The smaller species can grow well even in pots, even if the Abutilon expresses all its potential in the open ground, reaching remarkable heights, such as the Vitifolium variety, which can be up to 8 m high.
Structurally, the Abutilon is quite resistant and a few small tricks will be enough to cultivate it at its best.
Let’s see how.
The first planting should be done in early spring, on a soft soil, rich in organic matter and well drained.
The tropical origin of the Abutilon makes him fear low temperatures and he wants a lot of sun: therefore, you will have to look for a well ventilated and bright positioning, both indoors and outdoors and, when it is colder, it must be protected.
The waterings must be adapted to the season: in the warm months they must be repeated often, always leaving the soil moist, while in winter they must be more rare and spaced.
During the vegetative period, the Abutilon must be fertilized every 15 days, adding a liquid fertilizer for flowering plants to the water.
Some smaller varieties, such as Abutilon Hybridum, can also be grown in pots, in the same way as cultivation in the open ground. The dimensions of the container must be quite large, so that the roots find space to expand freely.
If you want to repot it, wait until March.
Diseases and treatments
If grown on the ground, the Abutilon has no particular enemies: in the spring, beware of snails, fond of tender shoots.
In pot, however, it can be attacked by the red spider or mealybugs, but above all by the white fly: you can fight it with the common insecticides on the market, or try with effective natural remedies such as decoctions of nettle or horsetail, to be sprayed on the leaves.
There are about 200 species in the genus Abutilon, so different from each other that some are even considered weeds of crops such as Abutilon Theophrasti. And to think that, instead, in China these same species is cultivated for the therapeutic properties of its seeds and to create, with bark and roots, a textile fiber similar to jute.
Abutilon is a truly eclectic plant, beautiful to look at and although its flowering is so exuberant, in the language of flowers it symbolizes meditation.
But its flowers are not only scenographic: they are also edible and have a sweet taste, while its seeds are very nutritious and in Asia they are often used in cooking.