Even if gardeners don’t talk much about Abutilon plants these days, we have to admit that we are in love with them. Abutilons, a.k.a Indian Mallows are a must-have in your plant family, especially if you want to fill your garden with colorful blooms. Besides their adorable blossoms and showy foliage, these plants are also very easy to grow and care for. But you will see all of these for yourself!
Abutilon is a large genus that contains about 200 species of absolutely stunning flowering plants. The species from this genus go by many common names, such as the Indian mallow, Velvetleaf, Flowering maple, Room maple, or Parlor Maple. They are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Asia.
Indian mallows are pretty popular ornamental plants in areas where they are usually winter-hardy. They are highly versatile, making them wonderful additions to both indoor and outdoor settings. These plants look gorgeous in Mediterranean gardens, rock gardens, cottage gardens, city gardens, beds, borders, or containers.
About Abutilon Plants
- Prized for their delicate, but attractive blossoms, the varieties A. megapotamicum, A. ‘Souvenir de Bonn’, A. pictum ‘Thompsonii’, and A. megapotamicum ‘Variegatum’ have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
- All Abutilon species have their own magnetic aura. Besides the award-winning cultivars mentioned above, the all-time favourites are ‘Apollo’, ‘Bartley Schwarz’, ‘Canary Bird’, ‘Kentish Belle’, the ‘Lucky Lantern’ group, ‘Nabob’, and ‘Tiger Eye’.
- In traditional medicine, folks used A. indicum species as a treatment for bleeding, tuberculosis, ulcer, toothache, fever, or gout. Likewise, these plants have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, astringent, diuretic, and expectorant properties.
- The flowers of A × hybridum plants are edible and have a delicious sweet flavour. The longer their flowers stay open, the more their sweetness will increase. People consume them either alone or as a part of different salad recipes.
- In China and India, the locals eat the seeds of A. theophrasti species raw or cooked in numerous culinary recipes. They have a pleasant nutty flavour. Some sources say that their leaves are also edible, but there is no full evidence of this fact.
- Some species, varieties, and hybrids may have mild toxic effects if touched or ingested. For safety purposes, you should grow Abutilon plants in a place where your curious cats, dogs, or kids cannot reach them and be informed about the type that you’re growing.
- Indian mallows can make for great companion plants to other interesting species. The most common companions include Fern, Fuchsia, Geranium, Heuchera, Hydrangea, Japanese Aralia, Lobelia, Ornamental grasses, Petunia, or Rose.
Abutilon Plants Features: An Overview
- Abutilon plants belong to the Malvaceae family, sharing it with many well-known species of economic importance, such as Cacao, Cotton, Durian, or Okra. Other popular ornamental members of this family include Mallow, Hollyhock, and Lime.
- The plants from the Abutilon genus include perennial shrubs, trees, and herbs. Depending on the species, they can reach from 1.5 to 10 feet (0.5-3 m) in height and up to 8 feet (2.4 m) in width.
- In general, the evergreen foliage of Abutilon plants can be either woolly, hairy, or bristly. Their leaves are palmate, veined, entire or lobed, green or variegated, and can also have wavy or serrated margins.
- With lots of sunlight and warm temperatures, Indian mallows will bloom almost non-stop throughout the year. During this period, they produce numerous bell-shaped flowers that have five lobes and petals.
- Their blossoms usually come with attractive veins and can appear in small inflorescences, solitary, or paired. They exhibit various shades of white, orange, yellow, red, pink, purple, or salmon and have a dark-coloured centre.
- Abutilon plants bear tiny, dry, and round to hemispherical fruits called schizocarps. The fruits can have up to 20 segments (mericarps) that split open when mature, each mericarp containing a few seeds.
Growing Abutilon Plants
No matter what Abutilon species has caught your eye, you should know that they are all pretty low-demanding plants. In general, these flowering companions will grow healthy and happy without much effort on your part. Still, they have some basic requirements that you will need to pay attention to at the beginning. Now let’s get more familiar with our Abutilons!
Like most species of shrubs and trees, Indian mallows thrive with lots of sunlight all year round. For optimal results, make sure you grow these plants in a place where they can receive plenty of bright and direct light daily. In areas with hot summer months, however, they can also tolerate some partial shade. As a matter of fact, partial shade is more than beneficial for the health of your plants in these particular environments.
Native to tropical and subtropical climates, Abutilon plants are typically big lovers of warmth. Although some varieties can withstand cooler conditions, most specimens are winter hardy only in USDA zones 8, 9, and above. If you live in a region with harsh winters, we recommend you grow these buddies as annual ornamentals or potted indoor houseplants.
Indian mallows do not encounter a lot of issues with pest infestations or fungal diseases, but some intruders may bother them occasionally. The most common pests that can visit your plants are mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. If you notice some suspect presence, you can get rid of the intruders by removing them with bare hands and spraying your plants with insecticidal soap.
Planting Abutilon Plants
When it comes to their growing medium, Abutilon plants usually do well in almost any type of soil. However, they prefer moist substrates that are rich in nutrients and organic matter. Likewise, these species require well-draining soils to avoid soggy conditions and root rot. If you want to grow your Abutilons in an indoor setting, you should plant them in pots that come with drainage holes at the bottom.
In terms of fertilizers, Indian mallows will not need very frequent feedings throughout their journey. But! These plants will benefit from additional fertilizing once in a while and will not hesitate to show their eternal gratitude. Feed your beloved plants with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once every two weeks during their active growing season. They are generally vigorous growers, so make sure you dilute the substance at half strength to avoid over-fertilizing.
For most Abutilon species, varieties, and hybrids, regular pruning may be necessary. These plants grow at a pretty fast pace, so they tend to become somewhat leggy and lose their attractive shape with time. In early spring or late autumn, you can cut back all unhealthy or old branches to maintain a tidy or even bushy overall look. It is recommended to remove their spent flowers to promote new, fresh blooming.
If you are growing your Indian mallows indoors in containers, you must repot them regularly. Once they start to outgrow their current pots, transplant them in others that are slightly larger. We recommend you do this in early spring when the plants are most vigorous.
Watering Abutilon Plants
Abutilon plants are not picky at all when it comes to their watering routine, so you cannot possibly do something bad to them. In fact, it is pretty hard to over-water them if you are simply following some basic steps in their watering technique. Moreover, in case of prolonged dry conditions, they are very expressive and will usually show their discontent right away.
As a general rule, you must check their soil in-between waterings to avoid drowning your plants. When the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch, you can spoil your Indian mallows with a nice drink.
During hot and dry summers, these plants may need more water than usual, so it is wise to check the substrate more often. In winter, most species go dormant and do not require so much water in general. To avoid over-watering, you can provide them with water only once every two or three weeks.
Propagating Abutilon Plants
If you want more of these beauties around, you’ll be happy to know that you can easily propagate all Abutilon species through seeds or stem cuttings. However, seeds collected from varieties and hybrids will not come true to the parent. Because of this, we recommend you propagate these particular cultivars using cuttings for best results.
To propagate your Indian mallows from seed, you must first collect the seeds in spring then sow them in fresh soil. With lots of sunlight, warm temperatures, and regular moisture, the seeds will germinate in several months or so. Still, the seedlings may take a full year before they show some signs of blooming.
You can propagate Abutilon plants through cuttings only if you are using softwood stems in spring or semi-ripe branches in summer. Look for healthy stems and cut about 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) off them using a sharp, sterilized knife. Once you have the cuttings, remove the bottom layer of leaves and flowers from each.
Some growers also dip the cut ends of the cuttings into rooting hormone before planting, but this is optional. Plant the cuttings in fresh soil, keep them in bright light, and water regularly to maintain the substrate constantly damp. Moreover, bottom heat will also speed their rooting process. When the cuttings have a strong root system, you can transplant the baby plants in their permanent locations and gift some of them to your family or friends!
Abutilon plants come with plenty of nice-looking and easy-going cultivars, so we are sure that you will find the perfect addition to your collection! Once you get to know these flowers in person, you will undoubtedly fall in love with their overall nature. And, as always, make sure you share your unique relationship with these buddies in our comment section!