Family: Chinese Bellflower Malvaceae
Fast-growing, leggy shrubs to 2.5m/8ft, Abutilons are best trained up columns or against sunny walls so the beauty of their hanging flowers can be enjoyed all through the warm weather. They like rich, damp soil, flower best in full sun.
Pinch back often to encourage branching and improved flower yield. Heavy feeding makes them bolt, so give only a very dilute fertilizer to replace nutrient leached out of the soil. Most commonly seen are the many cultivars grouped as Abutilon X hybridum.
These include ‘Emperor’ and ‘Vesuvius’ with red blooms; pink ‘Tunisia’; bright yellow ‘Golden Fleece’ and white ‘Boule de Neige’. Some 100 natural species are also grown. Among the most worthwhile is the sprawling Big River Abutilon, Abutilon megapotamicum from Brazil, particularly in its variegated form.
This may be used as a dense groundcover in warmer areas or trained as a wall shrub. Its hybrid Abuliton X milleri has larger leaves and more open, redveined blooms. A pictum has orange blooms veined in red. The variegated form ‘Souvenir de Bonn’ is illustrated. In cold climates, Abutilons are sometimes raised as door plants; bloom best when rootbound.