Abutilon Pruning Tips: When To Prune A Flowering Maple

By: Teo Spengler

Abutilon plants are showy perennials with maple-like leaves and bell-shaped flowers. They are often called Chinese lanterns because of the papery blossoms. Another common name is flowering maple, because of the lobed leaves. Trimming abutilon is essential to their continued health and beauty. You’ll need to learn how to prune an abutilon if you are growing one of these plants. Read on for information on trimming abutilon as well as abutilon pruning tips.

Pruning Abutilon Plants

Abutilon plants are native to South America, Africa and Australia. They are tender evergreens that need a growing site with some sun to produce the lovely, lantern-shaped flowers. They also need some shade to thrive. Why do you need to think about pruning these plants? Abutilons get leggy as they grow. Most plants are prettier and more compact if you start pruning abutilon plants regularly.

In addition, broken or diseased branches can allow in or pass on infection. Pruning out damaged and diseased branches is essential.

If you are wondering when to prune a flowering maple, think late winter or early spring. Abutilon plants flower on current growth. That means that you’ll have more flowers if you prune a flowering maple before spring growth begins.

How to Prune an Abutilon

When you start pruning abutilon plants, you’ll always want to sterilize your pruners first. It’s one of the most important abutilon pruning tips and prevents the spread of disease.

The next step in how to prune an abutilon is to remove any and all plant parts that suffered winter damage, as well as other damaged or dead shoots. Remove the branches just above a stem junction. Otherwise, trimming abutilon is a matter of personal taste. You prune a flowering maple to create the look and shape you want.

But here is another one of those abutilon pruning tips: never prune a flowering maple by removing more than one-third of a stem. That leaves the plant with enough resources to maintain its vitality. However, if you find that the plant is too dense, you can remove bare or aging stems. Just cut them at the plant’s base.

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While unrelated to the maple tree, abutilon, or the flowering maple, is an upright, evergreen shrub with leaves similar to the maple. The abutilon flowers throughout the year and the plentiful blooms look very much like those of the hibiscus.

Many green-thumbs raise abutilon indoors in containers for their year-round beauty. However, these leggy plants do require pruning to control their growth, shape and size. Plus, regular pruning will insure a healthy plant and encourage flower production.

  • While unrelated to the maple tree, abutilon, or the flowering maple, is an upright, evergreen shrub with leaves similar to the maple.
  • Plus, regular pruning will insure a healthy plant and encourage flower production.

Remove dead or diseased portions of plant regularly throughout the year by cutting off damaged branches with your garden shears .

Deadhead the abutilon regularly when flowering blooms begin to wilt. To deadhead, simply pinch off the shrivelling bloom. They should fall off easily in your hand.

Prune the tips of each branch on young plants to encourage fuller growth and a well-shaped plant. To tip prune, cut several inches off each stem tip with your garden shears. Tip prune in the spring when new growth begins.

Prune in spring to control height as abutilon can grow to 10 feet tall. Cut branches back to the leaf joint to achieve desired height and to encourage new branches to shoot out for a bushier plant.

  • Prune the tips of each branch on young plants to encourage fuller growth and a well-shaped plant.
  • Cut branches back to the leaf joint to achieve desired height and to encourage new branches to shoot out for a bushier plant.

Cut off branches shooting to the sides with your garden shears if you prefer a tall, treelike abutilon. Allow only one main stem to grow upwards until plant has reached desired height. Tip prune main stem to encourage bushiness at top.

Plant Profile: Trailing Abutilon (Abutilon megapotamicum)

Trailing abutilon is a deciduous or partially evergreen shrub native to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay where it grows in dry mountain valleys. It is a member of the mallow family, Malvaceae, that also includes hollyhock, hibiscus, cotton, and okra. Plants grow up to 8′ tall and have small, ovate, pointed leaves 2-3″ long with three shallow lobes. The leaves grow horizontally so the plants tend to have a 2-D appearance. In summer and autumn the pendulous, bell-shaped flowers appear. They are 2-3′ and have a conspicuous bright red calyx and 5 lemon yellow petals surrounding a column of stamens and pistils that extend beyond the petals. Plants can be grown in containers and are a popular choice for subtropical gardens. The genus name, Abutilon, is the Arabic word for a mallow-like plant. The specific epithet, megapotamicum, comes from the Greek prefix, mega, meaning large, and the Greek word potamos, meaning river.

Type: Tender perennial

Bloom: Bell-shaped flowers with crimson calyx, lemon yellow petals, and extruded pistil-stamens column, in summer and autumn

Size: 8′ H x 8′ W

Light:Full sun

Soil:Average, moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 9-10

Care: Grows quickly when young so may have to be repotted twice a year if grown in a container prune 25-40% just before growth begins

Pests and Diseases: Spider mites

Propagation: Seed

Companion Plants: Bird of paradise salvias such as S. leucantha, S. regla, and S. greggii Heliconia rostrata bromeliads

Outstanding Selections:

‘Variegatum’ (yellow mottled leaves)

‘Victor’s Folly’ (wine-colored sepals with deep veining and soft peach petals)

‘Wisley Red’ (rich red flowers)

It is a popular ornamental plant in subtropical gardens.

USDA hardiness zone 9b to 10b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 40 °F (+4.4 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Abutilon is not an especially difficult plant to grow. During warmer, dry winters, they are sometimes affected by spider mites, and they are known for leggy growth. To encourage bushy growth, prune the plant by 25 percent to 40 percent in the late winter, right when new growth is about to start. Also, throughout the summer, occasionally pinch off new growth to encourage healthy growth. When pruning, make sure to stagger your cuts and remove some large branches to open the plant’s canopy. As a final note, these plants dislike acidic soil, so it is not necessary to add additional lime to your potting mix. Instead, stick with the basic peat-based potting soil and make sure to refresh it as the mixture decomposes and becomes more acidic over time.

Abutilon is a relatively fast-growing plant, especially when they’re young. Consequently, younger plants might need to be repotted twice a year, once at the beginning of the growing season and once in the middle. Older plants, however, benefit from being slightly pot-bound, so should be repotted either every other year or yearly into only slightly larger pots. Pot-bound plants tend to grow more vigorously and bloom better… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Abutilon


Native to the dry mountain valleys in Brazil.

How to Cut Back an Abutilon

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Various species within the genus Abutilon, including plants commonly referred to as flowering maple, Chinese lantern, Chinese bell flower and collectively as abutilon, are evergreen shrubs enjoyed for their maple-like leaves and bell-like, pendulous flowers. Hardiness varies by species, but most survive up to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 8 or 9, and some cultivars are grown as container specimens or houseplants in cooler regions. Abutilons have a tendency to become leggy and benefit form regular pruning to maintain compactness. Abutilons produce flowers on the current season's growth, so prune in late winter or early spring.

Cleanse pruning shears, loppers or another cutting tool with rubbing alcohol or a bleach solution between uses. When pruning specimens that could be diseased, sterilize the tool between cuts to help prevent transmission.

Cut back any cold-damaged portions of the abutilon to just above a stem junction or an outward-facing node in late winter or early spring, once all danger of frost has passed and new growth has emerged. Prune off any other dead or diseased branches.

Cut back branches selectively to shape the abutilon and control growth as desired. As a general rule, remove no more than a third of the length of each stem and make all cuts just above a node. Prune out any branches that are rubbing against another branch or growing toward the inside of the shrub.

Cut back bare, scraggly or old stems to just above a strong, vigorous shoot near the plant's base, or completely remove them with a cut at the plant's base.

Pinch back new growth on hybrid abutilon specimens after at least six new leaves appear on the young shoot. Use your thumb and the fingernail of your index finger to remove the tip of each shoot.

Monitor the abutilon throughout the year and prune off portions of the plant that are damaged by physical injury or are heavily infested by scales, aphids or whiteflies. Whiteflies tend to congregate, especially in leaf axils and on the undersides of leaves. You may only have to pinch off a few leaves selectively to remove most of these troublesome insects. Bag or otherwise dispose of removed plant parts to prevent reinfestation.

  • University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Abutilon, Chinese bellflower, Chinese lantern, Flowering maple — Abutilon spp.
  • University of Vermont: Abutilon
  • University of California Cooperative Extension Sonoma County Master Gardeners: Plant of the Month -- April: Abutilon
  • Ortho's All About Pruning Judy Lowe
  • The Complete Burke's Backyard: The Ultimate Book of Fact Sheets Don Burke
  • Pruning Plant by Plant DK Publishing

Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies.

Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does flower in October

Plant does flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

  • Botanical name:Abutilon 'Kentish Belle'
  • Common name: Abutilon
  • Family: Malvaceae
  • Plant Type: Shrub, Evergreen

Abutilons have lantern-shaped flowers, often in shades of red, orange or yellow. They can be grown outdoors in a warm, sheltered location that is sheltered from cold winds and frost, or in a conservatory, where they may continue to flower through the winter.

Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ is a hybrid of the species with A. megapotamicum. It has large, yellow and crimson flowers. It is hardier than some other abutilons.

Grow Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’ in moist but well-drained soil in a sunny, sheltered spot – against a sheltered south or west -facing wall is ideal. Propagate from summer cuttings, as an insurance against winter damage, especially since the shrubs can be short-lived. Trim back after flowering.

Watch the video: How to Prune Abutilon

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