Flowering maple (Abutilon species) is a shrub in the mallow family and native to Brazil. Flowering maples are also known as parlor maple and Indian mallow. Flowering maples are not related to maple trees (genus Acer), but have a similar leaf shape. Abutilon species are related to hollyhocks, cotton, okra, cotton and rose of Sharon.
Flowering maples are upright, slender shrubs, growing 1 to 12 feet in height, with a 1 to 6 foot spread. It's medium-green to green-speckled with gold leaves that often resemble the leaves of true maple trees (genus Acer). Flowering maple blooms are commonly yellow or orange, but are also available in white, pink, mauve, red, apricot or purple varieties as well. The flower shape of flowering maples varies by species--some with open bell-shaped blooms, and others with a pendent, lantern appearance. Flowering maples bloom from spring to fall.
The speckled variegation exhibited by some species is caused by a virus that otherwise has negligible effects on plant growth and flowering. The virus is considered a beneficial plant disease due to the resulting leaf patterns.
Use flowering maples as container plants in cool climates. Use as a small shrub in warm climates. Flowering maple is also suitable as a houseplant in high-light conditions. Their long-blooming habit makes flowering maples attractive landscape specimens.
Ashford Red (Abutilon x hybridum) is a red flowering maple growing up to 10 feet tall and with a 10-foot spread. Its foliage is variegated with yellow specks. It is frost tolerant and suitable for growing in USDA hardiness zones eight through 11. Canary Bird (Abutilon x hybridum) is a bright-yellow flowering maple with similar size and frost tolerance of Ashford Red. Abutilon x suntense is a purple or mauve flowering maple growing up to 15 feet in height (slightly taller than most) and with 8-foot spread. This is best grown in zones eight and nine. Dwarf Red (Abutilon x hybridum) is a small cultivar, growing under 2 feet in height and produces orange-red, bell-shaped flowers.
Grow flowering maples in well-drained, fairly nutrient-rich soil in light shade or bright sun conditions. Keep plants indoors in cool climates until the worst frosts have passed. Water flowering maples well during the summer but avoid allowing waterlogged conditions and decrease watering during winter months. Propagate flowering maples from stem-tip cuttings in late summer.
Pests of flowering maples include aphids, spider mites, scale insects, whiteflies and mealybugs. Control these insects with homemade or commercially available horticultural insecticide soaps. According to University of Vermont Extension, drafts and location changes (of containerized plants) can cause leaf drop.