Despite the common name these plants have no kind of kinship with the Maples, the abutilons, close relatives of the mallow, they are medium-sized shrubs, with evergreen leaves, originating in the tropical areas of the globe; in the nursery we generally find hybrid varieties, together with the megapotamicum species, the common name flower maple derives from the fact that these shrubs produce leaves very similar to those of a maple, in shape, color and size.
In addition to the decorative foliage, the abutilon hybridums from May to the autumn cold produce numerous flowers, bell-shaped, large and intensely colored. In hybrid species the flowers are bell-shaped, very large, similar to flowers of a hibiscus, in shades of red, yellow, pink, white; abutilon megapotamicum instead produces smaller flowers, with bright red calyx and golden yellow petals, forming a small lantern, the leaf is oval in shape.
Cultivated in the open ground the abutilons can reach two meters in height with good speed, generally in pots they do not exceed one meter and a half.
Grow them in the garden
In the areas of origin the botanical species of abutilon hybridum enjoy a mild climate throughout the year; if we choose to cultivate a botanical species, we prefer to place it in a vase, so that it can be placed in a sheltered place during the winter, to prevent intense frosts from ruining it.
In the nursery we can find many hybrid varieties, some of which are well adapted to live even in the temperate climate areas of our country, especially if placed in the spring, so that they receive cold gradually over the months, and are well rooted to the arrival of autumn.
Some species, such as Abutilon vitifolium, and hybrids, bear winter temperatures close to -10 ° C, so they can easily find a place in the garden.
We prefer a not excessively sunny place, with the cool of the shade in the hottest moments of the day, but still well bright; the soil must be fresh, deep, rich and very well drained, we add a slow release granular fertilizer before planting the plant, guaranteeing the right level of mineral salts for months.
Watering and pruning
In the period of greatest production of flowers and leaves, the abutilons need regular watering, which keep the soil always fresh and moist, so let's avoid watering excessively, and we always wait for the substratum to dry slightly between the waterings.
If we believe we live in an area with a very cold winter climate, we put the abutilon in a nice large vessel, which we will take outdoors with the arrival of the warm season, and we will move to a cold greenhouse in autumn; remember that the plants grown in pots generally remain smaller than the sisters placed in the ground, in addition to this the watering will certainly be more intense.
The evergreen species of abutilon do not go into complete vegetative rest during the winter, therefore the specimens grown in greenhouses need sporadic watering, on pain of complete loss of the foliage, and often of the entire plant.
These plants are vigorous shrubs, which tend to become very large and dense; to keep them small in size, and above all to prevent them from lengthening, losing foliage in the lower part, let us remember to practice a light training pruning in autumn.
Pests and diseases
The abutilon hybridum are often attacked by aphids and ants, we intervene as soon as we see the first insects on the spring shoots, or with good probability they will ruin the first buds, even irreparably.
The specimens stored in greenhouses in winter are often attacked by white flies and cochineal, due to the poor ventilation in the greenhouse, also in this case we intervene promptly at the first appearance of the insects.
Abutilons are also particularly susceptible to mosaic viruses, this virus generally does not bring any particular discomfort to plants, but mimics the yellow foliage, a detail that makes the "sick" specimens more interesting from an ornamental point of view.
Flower Maple - Abutilon hybridum: The flower maple in the house
Potted flower maples are also grown as houseplants; remember that these are shrubs of a certain size, so we buy an abutilon to grow at home only if we are sure we can give the plant the right space, where it can develop freely, well ventilated and bright. During the summer, these plants are placed outdoors, they are cultivated at home only in autumn and winter, possibly in a not particularly heated room, or in a very bright stairwell.