Weeping Chinese Lantern – Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Variegatum’

Weeping Chinese Lantern, or Flowering Maple, is a member of a family of about 100 shrubs from tropical and temperate areas of South America.

This particular plant from Brazil is grown as much for its delicate foliage as for its flowers. Its maple-shaped leaves are elongated to a pointed tip and have serrated edges.

The flowers appear at the end of long and pendulous stems. At every stage the flowers are very attractive. First reddish-orange buds resembling little balloons are produced. The flowers are yellow and have no scent.

The flowering maple has a long blooming season — from spring through until the end of autumn, and in mild climates, into winter.

The willowy stems can grow as much as .9-1.2m (3-4ft) during one season. If this plant gets too out of hand for the container or the position you have chosen, snip away excessive stems. Prune it drastically to keep it in scale with your home setting.

Colours and varietiesWeeping Chinese Lantern - Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum'

The Weeping Chinese Lantern, Abutilon megapotamicum has plain green leaves, while the most commonly grown variety. A.m. ‘Variegatum’ has yellow markings on the leaves.

Display ideas

You can train the stems around hoops or over a small trellis to give the plant a more upright appearance. It will look good trailing over the edge of a pedestal, but better still, plant it in a hanging basket and let the stems trail down. If you put it on a windowsill make sure it has indirect light.

Through The Year

April—June

Repot the plant in early spring. Cut back any straggly growth. Use tip cuttings to grow new plants. Water regularly during the growing season, but let the compost dry out between waterings. Apply a fertilizer once a week.

July—October

Water generously and feed your plant regularly.

November—April

Reduce watering and stop feeding.

If you have enough space for a small trellis, train a Weeping Chinese Lantern to grow against it. If there is very good light it will thrive abundantly, but see that it is kept out of direct sunlight.

Plant Problems

Aphids may attack. Treatment: Wash them away using a hand sprayer or under a gentle shower. If you use an insecticide use it in very diluted forms as this plant may be damaged by too strong an application.

Whitefly infestation. Treatment: They are not easy to eliminate. You will have to use an insecticide.

Red spider mite attack the plant when humidity level is low.

Treatment: Misting occasionally with a hand sprayer will raise humidity. Stand the plant in a tray of damp pebbles. If mites persist you will have to use an insecticide.

Plant loses leaves and flowers suddenly. This is due to sudden changes in temperature.

Prevention: Avoid this by hardening the plant off in stages before you move it outside in summer.

PLANT CARE

Easy to look after in summer but needs care in winter. In spring cut back old stems and trim to desired shape. See that it is out of draughts. In summer it can be put outside— but bring it inside in autumn.

  • Potting: Repot annually in spring for new growth. Use a standard soil-based potting compost.
  • It needs plenty of watering during the growing and flowering period, especially on hot days. In winter water sparingly but never allow the potting mixture to dry out.
  • Feeding: Apply a liquid fertilizer once a week during the growing season.

GROWING CONDITIONS

  • Light: It needs plenty of light, but protect it from strong, direct sunlight. In winter it needs to be in a cool but bright place.
  • Temperature: In winter a temperature of just under 15°C (60°F) would be ideal. In summer normal room temperatures will suit it and it can be put outside if placed in semi-shade.

Admired for its gracefully tailing stems, the Weeping Chinese Lantern is also grown for its delicate lantern-like blooms that last from spring until autumn.

When to buy

  • Available in spring as a small plant. Mature plants available all year.
  • See that the plant you choose has healthy foliage and plenty of shoots.
  • Can live for many years.

Abutilon are tropical in origin, and are usually grown as greenhouse, conservatory or pot plants in this country, but two of the species can be grown outdoors in favoured sites in the south and west of England, and are well worth attempting for the sake of their beautiful, exotic-looking flowers. A. vitifolium is the hardier; and if grown as a wall shrub in a sheltered position could even succeed in areas farther north. It grows to 1.8 m (6 ft) – more if on a good site – and produces masses of large mauve flowers from May to September, or later in good years. ‘Album’ is a white cultivar.

A. megapotamicum is less hardy, but is worth attempting for its unusual flowers, produced from late April right through the summer, red and yellow and pendant, looking like fuchsia flowers. It can grow to 2.4m (8 ft) in good conditions. A. variegatum has yellow and green leaves.

General care: Abutilon prefer a sunny site, as sheltered as possible, preferably against a wall. Any garden soil will do. Depending on the site, they will probably need protection from frost or cold with bracken or straw in anything but the mildest winter, and in any case the young plants should be given routine winter protection until they are fully grown. Little pruning is needed, apart from removal of dead or diseased shoots in the spring.

Propagation: All the species can be raised from seed, which is freely produced. Sow in pots in spring at 18°C (65°F). But named varieties will only come true if raised from semi-hardwood cuttings. Take shoots any time in the summer and strike in pots of a 50-50 mixture of peat and sand.

Pests and diseases: Mealy bugs cause sticky brown patches on the leaves. Spray with malathion. Abutilon is generally disease-free.

 

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