Botanical Name: Abutilon hybrids; Abutilon hybridum
Origin: The Flowering Maple originates from the tropical regions of Brazil.
Height: Indoor Abutilon hybrids are usually pruned back to keep them at a maximum height of around 90 cm (3 ft), but if left to its own devices, a plant will keep growing up to 3 m (10 ft) tall. Staking may become necessary for fairly tall plants.
Soil: This house plant is served best with a potting mix primarily consisting of peat moss.
Light: Abutilon hybrids require lots of bright light, even full sun, although they should be kept out of direct sun during midday.
Humidity: This plant requires moderate levels of humidity, and should be misted every two or three days (as required) with water at room temperature. This is particularly important during the winter months, when air tends to be drier.
Temperatures: Flowering Maples do not like to be cold, and should be kept in temperatures between 16 and 27 degrees C (60 to 80 degrees F). Anything less than 16 degrees C (60 degrees F) is likely to cause Abutilon hybrids to drop their leaves and enter a dormant state. If a plant is moved into the garden for the summer, it must therefore be returned indoors before night-temperatures drop to 13 degrees C (55 degrees F) or lower.
Water: Watering thoroughly should be followed by allowing the top 2.5 cm (1 in) of the potting mix to dry before watering again. While the soil needs to be kept evenly moistened, it should not be allowed to become soggy, as this will invite root rot.
Fertiliser: A Flowering Maple should be fed once a fortnight (spring to autumn) with a liquid fertiliser high in phosphorus.
Propagation: This plant can be propagated in spring by dipping the cut end of 10 cm (4 in) stem cuttings into rooting powder, then planting them in moistened potting mix.
Description and Care Tips
Abutilon hybrids, which are often also known as Chinese Lantern Plants due to their papery drooping flowers, owe their common name of Flowering Maple to the shape of their foliage, which resembles the leaves of the Maple tree.
Available in a plethora of varieties (the image above show just a small selection of possibilities), the Flowering Maple features large, bell-shaped flowers, which will more or less cover the plant from spring right through into autumn.
Thorough, even watering is essential, as uneven watering may cause dry pockets of soil, which will rapidly result in wilting. To prevent soggy soil and subsequent root rot, the container should have drainage holes, and drainage trays should be emptied immediately after watering.
To keep the plant at a manageable height, it is best to prune it back before its most vigorous growth-period in spring. As this house plant responds well to being pruned, it can be cut back quite harshly by up to a third. Pinching out growing tips will encourage branching and create a fuller, bushier appearance.
Spring is also the best time to propagate and repot Flowering Maples. As this house plant will bloom better when its roots are slightly pot-bound, repotting should only be done when necessary, and the new container should not be more than one size larger than the previous one.
Given conditions as close as possible to its natural habitat - plenty of sunlight (though shading from midday sun is essential), adequate humidity levels, warmth and moist soil - this plant will provide masses of blooms for the best part of the year.