Abutilon - How to care for and grow your Abutilon plant



It is an evergreen plant both indoors and outdoors, very generous in blooms that can become very large, especially if grown outdoors in temperate climate regions.






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: Eudicotyledons


: Asteris


: Euroside II











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


The genus Abutilon, family Malvaceae, it includes plants mostly native to the tropical and sub tropical areas of South America.

It is an evergreen herbaceous and shrubby plant that can reach considerable dimensions: one and a half meters in height if grown in pots but also 5 m if grown in the open ground.

The leaves, carried by petioles, are deeply incised and very often streaked with yellow, with an elliptical or heart-shaped oval shape depending on the species.

The flowers, solitary or gathered in inflorescences, are pendulous and resemble those of the bellflower, of a color that varies from yellow, to orange, to pink depending on the species and variety.

They appear at the axil of the leaves and, regardless of the species, the stamens are welded together around the stylus to form a sort of column that often protrudes from the corolla.


There are about a hundred species among which we remember:


It is a very widespread species characterized by ovate green leaves with serrated edges and, depending on the variety, streaked with white. It forms small yellow or orange flowers that bloom in late spring and autumn if temperatures permit.


It is native to Uruguay capable of reaching the size of a sapling.

The leaves are green-gray, palmate. The flowers are red - orange in the shape of a bellflower and blooms during the spring - summer period.

There are also several varieties with double flowers, variously colored and often mottled.The mottled leaf varieties, very decorative, are actually the result of a viral attack.

The virus responsible for the mottling is commonly called Abutilon mosaic virus which is transmitted from one plant to another through grafting or much more rarely with the seed or even by the whitefly.

Mottled tulip

The virus becomes manifest the greater the light intensity (for this reason it is advisable, if you want not to lose the mottling of the leaves, to keep these plants in very bright environments) while with low light intensity the mottling almost disappears, the leaves remain green (the virus does not show its symptoms but is always present).

In fact, however, many virologists disagree in considering this pathology a disease as it does not cause any damage to the plant but increases its ornamental value.

The literature is full of cases like this. Just think of the famous mottled tulips that have been so successful but which are nothing more than normal monochromatic tulips infected with viruses that give the delicious streaks.


The species A. megapotamicum it is native to Brazil and can reach up to 2.5 m in height.

It is characterized by very intense green leaves, ovate and with serrated edges. The flowers have yellow petals and emerge from a bright red calyx. It blooms from spring and all summer until late autumn.

There are numerous varieties among which we remember: A. megapotamicum Variegata with leaves irregularly mottled with yellowish-white.

The flowers are edible, with a sweetish taste.


The species A. vitifolium it can reach 8 meters in height and has green leaves with a velvety appearance. It produces delicious mauve or lavender flowers from May to October which as they grow, become flat and reach a diameter of 8 cm.

There are several varieties including the variety A. vitifolium album with white flowers.

Also in this case the flowers are edible and have a sweetish taste.


It is a shrub that reaches 2.5 m in height if grown in the open field. It blooms from spring to autumn, producing delightful solitary flowers at the axil of the leaves, with 5 petals carried by long, pendulous petioles with shades ranging from yellow to red to orange.

There are numerous varieties among which we remember: Ashford red with salmon-colored flowers; Boule de neige with white flowers and orange stamens; Canary bird is Golden fleece with yellow flowers.


L'A. avicennae it is also known as A. theophrasti and it grows quite generously, about 1 m per year.

The flowers are yellow and appear in summer. For more details see the "Curiosity" section.


L'TO. savitzii it is characterized by white leaves mottled with green and apricot-colored pendulous flowers.

Other species are:


It is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 5m in height and blooms from spring to summer. This species is not very tolerant towards low temperatures and is very demanding in terms of lice which must be very abundant (not only direct).A. pictum Thompsonii with leaves variously streaked with gold.


L'TO. x milleri it is a species characterized by large leaves streaked with yellow that blooms from spring to late autumn, producing delicate orange-yellow flowers with red streaks. It is a mild climate species. It resembles the A. megapotanicumThe flowers of these species are also edible.


It is not a difficult plant to grow.

The temperature ranges in which it grows well are between 10-15 ° C during the spring - summer period while in winter they must not drop below 5 ° C, therefore in the temperate climate areas, they can also be grown outdoors while in climates that have harsh winters, it is advisable to keep them in protected environments or, if grown outdoors, keep them in pots and, during the cold months, take them to sheltered places.

They need a lot of light, especially species with variegated leaves, but exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided. Only theA. megapotamicum tolerates direct sun, but not in the hottest hours of the day.

They are plants that love the air so it is advisable to often ventilate the environment in which they are located but pay attention to air currents, especially cold, which are not tolerated.


It should be watered often, even every day during the summer, so that the soil is always humid, while avoiding stagnation of water that is in no way welcome. Even in winter you follow the same rules, that is to always keep the soil slightly moist.

It is advisable to nebulize the foliage regularly to keep the environment sufficiently humid.

A good technique to ensure the right humidity is to place the pot on a saucer in which expanded clay or other inert material will be placed in which there will always be water which, evaporating, will guarantee a humid environment. pot does not come into contact with water.

Equip the radiators with humidifiers.


It is repotted every year, at the beginning of spring, immediately after the vegetative restart, using a vase slightly larger than the previous one.

A mixture of fertile soil, peat and sand is used in equal parts in order to be permeable as they do not like water stagnation.

We always recommend using terracotta pots as, being porous, they allow the soil to breathe.


From the vegetative restart and throughout the summer, it must be fertilized regularly every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer diluted in the watering water.During the other periods of the year the fertilizations must be suspended.

They are very greedy for nourishment so it is good to use complete fertilizers that in addition to having nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) also have microelements such as magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), iron ( Fe), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn), boron (B), all important for growth.


Flowering usually occurs from spring and throughout the summer but if it is grown indoors and adequate temperatures are guaranteed, it can bloom all year round.


It should be pruned regularly at the vegetative restart to eliminate the lateral branches that have formed, the dead ones or in any case dry.

The branches, for plants grown outdoors, must be cut for half their length while for those raised at home, simply trim the tops for about 8-10 cm.

Use clean and disinfected tools and the cut should be done just above the knot in a clean way, without leaving any fraying and in a slightly inclined way, in the direction in which you want the future branch to develop.


It propagates by seed but above all by cutting.

When choosing the technique to adopt, keep in mind that multiplication by seed has the disadvantage that, almost certainly, you will not get seedlings equal to the mother plant as genetic variability takes over. Therefore, if you want to obtain a precise specimen or you are not sure of the quality of the seed, it is good to do the multiplication by cuttings.

As for SEED MULTIPLICATION, it is carried out in early spring (March-April) by distributing the seeds evenly, in parallel rows on a soil for seeds, burying them slightly, push them under the ground using a flat piece of wood.

To prevent any attacks by fungi, it would be advisable to administer a broad spectrum fungicide with the irrigation water, in the doses indicated in the package.The tray with the seeds is kept in the shade, at a temperature around 15-20 ° C and constantly humid ( use a sprayer to completely moisten the soil) until the moment of germination.

The tray is covered with a clear plastic sheet or glass plate to ensure a good temperature and prevent the soil from drying out too quickly.

When the seeds have germinated, remove the plastic sheet and as the seedlings grow, increase the amount of light (never direct sun) and ensure good ventilation. Eliminate the less vigorous seedlings to give space to the more robust ones.When they are large enough to be handled, that is when they have reached a height of at least 10 cm, you will transplant them taking care in any case not to spoil any part of the plant (it would be preferable to use a fork for these operations that you will insert under the ground to take the whole plant and put it in the new pot) in a soil as indicated for adult plants.

For their first year of life it is preferable to keep them in a protected environment.


The cuttings can be taken from the top of the branches, at the beginning of spring (March-April), 8-15 cm long, choosing them from healthy and robust specimens. Cut them obliquely (it allows you to have a greater surface for rooting and avoids the accumulation of water on its surface) immediately under the node, eliminating the leaves located further down.

Use a sharp blade or knife to prevent the tissues from fraying, clean and disinfect (preferably with the flame or with alcohol or bleach) to avoid infecting tissues and disinfect it with each cut. of the roots and also add a broad spectrum fungicide to prevent any fungal attacks.At this point you can place the cuttings in a soil formed in equal parts of dark peat and coarse sand by making a hole with a pencil and planting them at a depth of about 1.5-2 cm .

Cover the jar with a transparent plastic sheet or a hooded bag and place it in the shade and at a temperature around 20 ° C. The soil should always be kept slightly moist by watering the root cutting with non-calcareous water and at room temperature without wetting the cuttings.Every day check the cuttings by removing the plastic both to eliminate the condensation that forms and possibly to moisten the soil. first sprouts means that the cutting has formed the roots at which point the plastic is removed and it settles in a brighter position (not in direct sun) and it is treated as if it were an adult.

For the first year of life for them too, as for plants born from seed, it is preferable to breed them in a protected environment and eventually transplant them outdoors, the following year.


A good practice for plants that grow in pots outdoors is to clean them with water in order to eliminate dust and any unwanted insects. Beforehand, however, be careful to cover the vase with a plastic sheet so as not to let the water go into the earth. Certainly this system is not decisive if you have for example aphids or other unwanted "guests", but it certainly helps. This system is also recommended before any treatments as it helps to reduce the number of pathogens.

Suddenly falling leaves

If this happens it is likely that there has been a sharp change in temperature.
Remedies: the remedies are preventive in the sense that it is necessary to be aware of where the plant is positioned.

The leaves begin to wilt

This is the first symptom of a probable lack of water, especially in summer, so much so that, if the temperatures are very high, it should be watered even twice a day.
Remedies: provide abundant watering and for the future, better regulate irrigation.

Spots on the underside of the leaves

It can easily be subject to attacks by cochineals and in particular the floury cochineal and brown cochineal.

To be sure, look with a magnifying glass. These insects are distinctive, you can't go wrong. Also, if you try to scratch them off, they can be easily removed. The brown cochineal is protected by a sort of hemispherical shield while the mealy cochineal resembles small cotton flakes.

Remedies: you can eliminate them with a cotton swab soaked in denatured alcohol or if the plant is in a pot it can be washed with water and neutral soap by gently rubbing with a sponge to remove the scale insects, after which it must be rinsed to remove the soap. For larger plants planted outdoors, specific pesticides can be used.

The leaves appear dotted with yellow

The leaves appear dotted with yellow and subsequently the leaves take on a bronze-gray color and the lower page appears as dusty and if observed with a magnifying glass you also notice thin cobwebs, surely you are in the presence of an infection due to mites or as more they are commonly called red diragnetto. They are the size of the head of the tip of a pin and are easily recognized also by the four pairs of legs.

Remedies: increase the humidity around the plant as a dry environment favors their proliferation and possibly, in the case of serious infestations, use a specific acaricide.

Presence of small insects on all green parts

Aphids or as they are more commonly called lice can infest these plants. They can be of different color depending on the species, but almost always light colors from yellow to green to white.

Remedies: treat with specific pesticides that you can easily find from a good nurseryman.

Presence of small insects similar to small white butterflies

These small insects are whiteflies, known as white flies. To understand if it is about them just shake the plant and you will see it rise like a cloud. They are found mainly concentrated on the underside of the leaves. The damages are caused by the subtraction of the lymph, having a stinging-sucking mouth apparatus and by the punctures they make in the tissues for the deposition of the eggs. They also produce honeydew (their droppings which are sugary and sticky) which can cause smoke and can transmit virosis.

Remedies: treat with specific pesticides.

To combat all the insects mentioned above, it is recommended to use systemic products, i.e. they enter the lymphatic circulation of the plant and are therefore absorbed by insects during feeding.


L'Abutilon it is also known by the name of flowering maple for the shape of the leaves that recall those of the maple.

Its name derives from the Arabic term that was used to indicate a plant that had similar characteristics to mallow.

Dell 'A. avicennae in China the seeds are used, eaten fresh when they are still green or, once ripe, are washed well, to remove the bitter taste and then left to dry and then reduced to flour and used in soups, bread, etc. They are very nutritious as they contain 17% protein, 16% fat and 33% carbohydrates In some countries it is also used as a medicine: from its dried leaves a tea is obtained which is used as an astringent (for dysentery) and 'incontinence. This species is also cultivated in China and Russia to obtain a fiber similar to jute from its stems.

Online bibliographic sources
(es) Ecocrop Fao

Video: How To Propagate Tigers Eye Abutilon

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