Growing Abutilon (Flowering Maple)

Latin Name Pronunciation: uh-bew'tih-lon 

LIGHT: Abutilons bloom freely provided they receive 6-8 hours of direct sun. A south-facing window is usually ideal.

TEMPERATURE: Day and night temperatures above 65°F are fine year round. Avoid putting plants in the path of cold drafts.

WATERING: Water when the top ½ inch of the potting mix is dry to the touch.

FERTILIZER: Feed every 2 weeks with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer (such as 18-18-18) mixed at ½ strength. A fertilizer designed to promote blossoms (formula 10-30-20) may be used instead..

CONTINUING CARE: Abutilons are vigorous growers. To keep your plant compact and bushy, prune back long stems with pruning shears, cutting just beyond the point where a leaf joins a stem. Prune just enough to give a pleasing overall shape; if you remove too much growth, you may prevent the plant from setting flower buds. Repot your plant into a slightly larger pot in spring.

PROBLEM: If pests appear, flush plant with water to wash them off; if they persist, spray with insecticidal soap.

Growing Standards: A standard is a woody plant trained to a long, single stem. The stem is crowned with a round head of foliage and flowers. This arrangement is beautiful but also unnatural, requiring a bit of effort on the part of the gardener to prevent gravity and the unrepressed inclinations of the plant from undoing the horticulturist's handiwork.

Staking a Standard: To keep your standard standing, put it out of reach of strong winds and support it with a stake that has a diameter at least as large as the stem's and long enough that when plunged into the pot or the ground it just reaches inside the head. Fasten the standard to the stake at several points with garden twine or green plastic tie tape looped in a figure-eight around stem and stake. Check the ties periodically during the growing season and loosen them if they constrict the outward growth of the stem.

Pruning, fertilizing, and repotting: Maintain the shape of the head with selective pinching of the new shoots (overzealous pinching will prevent the formation of flower buds). Pinch each shoot between thumb and forefinger or cut with pruning shears. Do not shear the plant as though it were a hedge. Fertilize standards grown in pots as you would other pot-grown plants. If you find that a standard in a container dries out quickly after watering, the plant probably needs a larger pot. Lift it from its current pot, make four deep vertical cuts in the root ball, and place it in a new pot that is 2in wider and taller than the old one, filling in around the root ball with fresh potting mix. Water thoroughly after repotting.

Overwintering a standard: Most standards require special care to overwinter. In cold winter climates, bring standards of Abutilon, Anisodontea, Fuchsia, Heliotrope, Lantana, and Rosemary indoors before frost and place them in an east- or west-facing window in a cool room. Water just enough to keep plants from drying out completely, and do not fertilize while plants are in this not-quite-dormant period. Set back outdoors in spring when nighttime temperatures remain consistently above 55°F.