Chinese Lantern or Flowering Maple
Abutilon plants, or Chinese Lanterns, are popular small evergreen garden shrubs available for sale from specialist nurseries. Also known as the Flowering Maple due to the shape of the leaves, they are long flowering, almost year-round.
A range of named varieties are available, including Abutilon x hybridum ‘Orange King’. Red flowering varieties are also popular however, yellow, pink and white forms can also be found for sale.
With long-lasting flowers, they are a plant that provides a splash of colour in the garden from summer through to autumn. It is well known for its bell-shaped flowers; however, some species and cultivars have funnel-shaped flowers.
The red flowering ‘Cannington Carol ‘is a compact or dwarf form reaching around 1m in height. It also has variegated foliage. (pictured above right)
How to Grow Chinese Lanterns
The best growing conditions are in a mild to temperate climate. ‘Chinese Lanterns’ grow well in well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade (avoid heavy frosts).
They are an easy plant to care for. Mulch well and cut back hard to promote new growth.
These plants can handle a little shade in the summer. They like the winter sun and remember that these wonderful plants will flower almost year-round in good conditions.
Provide some moisture by mulching in spring, and they do like good fertile soil. Mulch again in summer after some rain, and use a general slow-release fertilizer in spring, summer, and late autumn.
Pruning Chinese Lanterns
Over time, they are a plant that tends to get a little ‘leggy’ but can easily be pruned to maintain shape. Full sun in winter is a bonus for Abutilon.
Start by tip pruning young plants to maintain a bushy shape. As for when to prune older plants, in Australia you can do this any time from early spring to mid-autumn. Just avoid very hot periods and very cold periods. We have pruned most varieties in winter with no problems.
After hard pruning, you may need to wait a while for flowers; however, they will return in abundance.
If you want to maximize flowers, prune in late winter. This is when the flowering seems to be least prolific. By early summer, these easy-care plants will be flowering away happily.
Species and Varieties of Chinese Lanterns
Hybrids and cultivars are numerous. They are relatives of the hibiscus, with lantern or bell-shaped hanging flowers ranging from yellows, orange and tangerine through to pink, red and white.
The attractive pink form has been around for many years under different names.
- A. megapotamicum is an interesting smaller-growing species. A. Vitifolium album has white flowers in spring and summer. A. variegatum is a popular species. Abutilon ‘Double Pink’ has double pink carnation-like flowers from summer to autumn.
- Dwarf varieties are suitable for growing in pots.
- Also available are A. x milleri, generally with peach to apricot yellow flowers.
Links and Resources
- Abutilon “Boule de Neige”
- Abutilon x milleri
- Abutilon megapotamicum
- Abutilon ‘Nabob’ Photograph UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research
- Trailing Abutilon (Abutilon megapotamicum)
- Enkianthus campanulatus
Abutilon or ‘Chinese Lanterns’ are available for sale from the following nurseries
470 Monbulk-Silvan Road Monbulk VIC 3793
"Guaranteed mail order flowering bulbs, perennials, roses, trees, landscaping plants, garden accessories and community fundraising Austra lia-wide."
17 McCarthy Rd Monbulk, Vic, 3793, Australia
Specialising in propagation and production of over 900 species / varieties of ornamental plants, perennials & rare plants. Supplying nurseries, landscapers & others. Minimum quantities apply! Contact us to discuss plants or growing requirements.