Sunday, 5 April 2015

Underrated Abutilons

The weather seems to be improving after an horrendous week of rain and high winds, temperatures are on the rise and there are already several lots of cold sown seed showing germination.
The plant below is of course the half-hardy perennial Abutilon megapotamicum and probably the first one most gardeners would have come across. Although really a sprawling climber which needs tying in, it has been used in parks department bedding schemes as a spot plant for years. I first remember this in a parks department cool glass house where it was allowed to grow over the central doorway as a source of cuttings for such bedding schemes. Megapotamicum will survive winters here on a sheltered wall but it is best to take cuttings in late summer to be on the safe side.

Abutilon megapotamicum
There are a few improved forms available of a similar flower type such as A. x milleri  and A. 'Kentish Belle' but these have now been pretty much superseded by the larger flowering types.

Abutilon 'Golden Fleece'

Abutilon T&M Large Flowered Hybrids
These large flowered hybrids, particularly the Bella Series of F1 hybrids make really useful container plants in a variety of colours ranging through pinks, reds, peaches, yellow and white and have the benefit of being used year on year with some protection, in fact in mild areas a cold greenhouse may suffice. If unable to house the large plants, as mentioned above easily rooted cuttings allow a stock to be carried through the winter even on a windowsill. They are naturally evergreen and can be used as a house plant but do not worry if overwintering plants shed their leaves in low temperatures, pruning back to about two thirds of their height in mid-winter will stimulate new growth in the spring. Another very useful asset and one of the reasons I have grown them is that they are shade tolerant and do not need a sunny position to flower well.


Abutilon T&M Large Flowered Hybrids
Although a poor picture, it does show another colour form and the characteristic large maple-like palmate leaves which have led to some of its common names such as Parlour Maple or Flowering Maple. 

I notice it is not currently listed by T&M but there is just time to make a sowing inside to produce plants which will flower this year.  

Many thanks to the HPS image library for the first two pictures.

11 comments:

  1. Hi Rick,
    This post brings back fond memories. My first job was teaching English in a private school in Québec (think 19th century stone building, strong smell of floor polish, framed old prints on the wall etc.). In the large book-lined principal's office was an abutilon grown in an enormous tub on a mighty, tall stand. Branches would push up and then collapse producing a fountain effect. It was not only the biggest but also the most beautiful house plant I had ever seen with its hundred of blooms cascading down. It must have been many decades old. The variety was a pink orange colour. I got a cutting which I kept several years but it never reached the enormous size of its forebear.

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    1. I bet that was quite a sight Alain, the A.megapotamicum in the glass house was quite spectacular but not to the same scale that you describe.

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  2. I grew the variegated Abutilon megapotanicum outside in a sheltered yard for several years until the 2010 winter finished it off.
    I now grow the ordinary form but have to drag its tub into my cold greenhouse overwinter Dec- March. I don't want to lose it again!

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    1. You have just reminded me that my only specimen of A. megapotanicum needs bringing out of the tunnel now. I was going to plant it out this year to see how it thrives but my courage has failed me and I am going to try a bigger pot!

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    2. There is an old post on my blog about the variegated abutilon (just put abutilon in search box ) and since reading your post I have been fretting where my picture came from. As it died in 2010 and as I have only been blogging and taking photos for three years I was at a loss! It then dawned on me I cropped it from a professional photograph when a newspaper did a piece about my garden. The picture is well above my league and mystery solved!

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    3. I had forgotten how good the variegated form looks Roger, I remembered about the Hardy Plant Society image library when looking for an Abutilon picture a few days ago, although I am a member small numbers can be used by anyone for such as webs or newsletters with the proviso an acknowledgement would be appreciated. Thanks for the comments about peat on your Saxifrage post.

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  3. Hi Rick I am taken with the Abutilon megapotamicum. The one which thrived in our Aberdeen garden for years was x suntense.
    http://www.aberdeengardening.co.uk/diary/2010/11/abutilon-x-suntense/

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    1. Hi Alistair, I remember reading your post and at the time was amazed that A. x suntence survived in your Aberdeen garden, it is not something I would dream of trying here. The other interesting thing is that it brings mauve/blue into the colour mix.

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  4. I have never grown abutilons but I have seen a magnificent one in Kew several times and wanted to try one in my garden – but haven’t dared. Perhaps I will finally get a greenhouse now that I might be moving so I also can grow plants that need protection in colder winters. I would love to have both an abutilon and a brugmansia, both are just about on the border of what could be grown outdoors in my climate :-)

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    1. I must admit I am surprised Helene that you have never grown abutilons in your sub-tropical London climate perhaps you thought they would become too rampant :-)

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    2. Yes, lack of space has always been the biggest problem in my current garden and I have no wall space for climbers and tall plants to grow up against, only low fences. In my next (hopefully) garden I will get taller fences and a tall, south-west facing brick wall. I can picture lots of things to grow I have never had before :-)

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