Abutilons belong to the mallow (Malvaceae) family of shrubs. Growing wild in many areas of the United States, they're commercially available as landscape plants. Attractive for their lush, green and sometimes-variegated foliage, they have long-stamened, hibiscus-like blooms. Abutilons work as in-ground plantings where the climate permits. They make eye-catching container specimens elsewhere.
Regardless of its name, flowering maple (Abutilon x hybridum) is a semi-tropical abutilon hybrid hardy to USDA plant zone 9 and winter temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. As an in-ground shrub, flowering maple stands from 8 to 10 feet high. In colder climates, it grows as an annual or container plant, reaching up to 4 feet in a single growing season.
Named for its maple-like, green leaves--often with yellow or white markings--flowering maple has bell-shaped blooms on nodding stems. The flowers may be white, red, yellow, pink, orange or an assortment of pastels, notes the Missouri Botanical Garden. The plant performs best in consistently moist soil and full sun, with afternoon shade where summers are hot.
Abutilon megapotamicum grows up to 8 feet high in its native South American habitats. As a container plant, it has a spreading habit and will reach 2 feet across in a single season. Yellow flowers with red calyces (protective outer petals) make a striking combination with the plant's yellow-splotched green leaves. Give this abutilon a sunny spot with well-drained soil, advise the University of Vermont's professor Dr. Leonard Perry and Rebecca Slater.
Growing wild on the prairies and in the open woods of central and western Texas, Indian mallow (Abutilon indicum) is a good choice for desert gardens. Its velvety gray leaves offset yellow or orange blooms from March to September. Several butterfly species feed on the flowers' nectar. Cutting the dormant plants back in winter promotes dense new spring growth, advises the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Standing up to 6 feet tall, this drought-tolerant shrub likes full sun and dry soil.
Brought to the United States from southern Asia in the 18th century, velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) has escaped cultivation to become a weed in many parts of the country. Often exceeding 5 feet in height, the plant has long-stalked, large heart-shaped leaves. Their yellow, July and August flowers appear where the leaf stalks emerge from the stems. Each flower produces between one and three seeds that can survive for up to 50 years in the soil, according to the University of California's Integrated Pest Management website. The plants die back in winter.