Abutilon Patricia in bloom
image by Stan Shebs:commons.wikimedia.org
Abutilon, commonly known as flowering maple or Indian mallow, is a tender, flowering perennial shrub grown as an outdoor garden plant and as an ornamental houseplant. Though called flowering maple, abutilon is more closely related to the hibiscus, and this is strikingly evident when looking at the structure of its blooms. The leaf structures do, however, resemble a maple leaf and can be solid, stippled or variegated in color.
Select a sun-filled planting or container site with soil that is nutrient-rich and well-drained. Choose a site for in-ground planting that will accommodate your abutilon at its mature size, as they do not like to be relocated once established.
Plant your abutilon into well-tilled soil in a hole that is at least twice the diameter of the root ball and at least as deep. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole to ease the passage of young new roots through the soil. Place the abutilon into the hole ensuring that the soil height on the the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Backfill the displaced soil and tamp into place. Water in deeply to collapse any air pockets and ease stress on the plant.
Mulch around the roots from the trunk out to the drip line of the plant. Use at least a 2-inch blanket of organic mulch such as shredded bark, compost or leaf mold or some combination thereof. Mulch will keep down weeds, enrich the soil and prevent moisture loss to evaporation.
Water your abutilon during its first few years so that the soil surrounding it is uniformly and lightly moist. Give the plants a deep soaking in the fall before the first killing frost and the ground freezes. Slowly cut back on watering as the shrub ages so that by the end of its third year you are watering only in seasons of drought. When watering, apply only at the roots instead of overhead, or on the branching to prevent the invitation of fungus and bacteria.
Apply a high-quality, water-soluble, balanced-formula fertilizer to wet soil in the spring according to the manufacturers directions, and water well. You can use a slow-release formula or a fast-acting one as you prefer.
Prune abutilon to control its structure and size and to encourage new branch growth. Cut away branches that cross or abrade one another or look damaged. Deadhead fading flowers to encourage fresh blooms. Prune overly leggy plants aggressively in the spring to restructure them and give a tidier appearance and more lush growth form.