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Abutilon: The Miniature Chinese Lanterns

abutilon-plant

Besides having an extensive color range (yellow, red, pink, orange, and white), they also show variability in sizes. The dwarf form of the plant is used to make decorative baskets, while for home hangings, it is usually grown up to 1.5 feet.

In some cases, the larger plants may even spring up to 12 feet. Their flowers tend to bloom in summer and fall, but new hybrids have been created to bloom nearly year-round. These are just beautiful species that describe the garden’s scent and add to its visual beauty. The table below shows its detailed characteristics.

An Abutilon flower https://pixabay.com/photos/velvetleaf-flower-plant-blossom-3725170/

Information Table for Abutilon

OriginOriginated from South America
Botanical NameAbutilon
Different SpeciesAbutilon Pictum, Abutilon Theophrasti, Abutilon Hybridum, Abutilon Indicum, Abutilon Megapotamicum
MaintenanceLow maintenance
LightBright to medium light (should be kept in full to the partial sun during summers while northern gardeners may grow it in a container as to place it in desirable light easily).
TemperatureIt thrives in the summer warmth with a temperature around 32°C, and in winters, it requires a temperature around 16°C to grow. [1]
WaterOccasional misting is required in winters as it is grown as an indoor plant but requires more water when grown in summers.
Toxicity Generally, safe plants, but their leaves may cause skin irritability to humans upon contact in the fall.
Growth patternsDrooping 
Maximum size12 feet
PropagationIn the Spring Season, harvest 10cm long stem cuttings
FloweringBlooms into bell-shaped flowers
Common namesFlowering maple, dwarf Chinese lantern plant, paper bells, Chinese lantern, abutilon Chinese lantern, velvet leaf, Indian mellow.

How to boost its growth?

Sunlight:

Rather than shade, abutilon grows best in full sunlight, but during the peak hot hours of the summer days, it gets necessary to place them in the shade. It should be saved from the harsh sun in summers when it is grown outdoors.

If we talk about winters or the northern areas, perfect growth of this plant would be supported if grown indoors in containers where it would require only 3 hours of sunlight during the day.

Growing the plant in containers during harsh cold weather provides the benefit of moving it according to the weather conditions.

Soil Quality:

Different plants grow at various pH levels, either slightly acidic, alkaline, or neutral. They differ in the requirement of certain essential nutrients they get from the soil. For the abutilon to tower up perfectly, we must provide a sandy or loamy type of soil with a neutral or slightly acidic pH.

The soil must be well-drained and moist. Using organic compost twice a year and water-soluble fertilizer regularly will also help it grow healthier since the flowers undergo too much blooming.

Water:

During the winters, when it is grown indoors, the plants do not require much water. Just a spray of water on the leaves and flowers would be adequate.

However, weather conditions play an essential role, and in extreme summers, average watering is appreciated.

Keeping adequately watered soil is a must. If watering is less, the plant may wilt. If excessive water is added, roots may rot, and the plant will get damaged

Fertilizer: 

Give fertilizer rich in phosphorus or potassium content to a flowering maple once every two weeks. A water-soluble liquid fertilizer is preferred, which is easier to spray.

Fertilizer is required mainly in spring when the flowers blossom and in autumn when the older leaves die out and new shoots grow on the plant.

Temperature:

These plants do not enjoy a cold environment. Temperatures between 16 to 20°C are considered pleasantly cold temperatures for the plant to survive. A temperature drop below 16° C would cause the abutilon’s leaves to fall, sending it into a dormant state.

Summer temperatures of around 27° C to 32° are ideal for its growth. However, keeping it in a highly heated environment would also damage the plant.

Humidity:

Abutilon prefers a moderately humid climate with a need for misting every two to three days. Winters may tend to be dry and require higher misting to increase humidity around the plant.

Potting:

As the plant grows larger, repotting is essential. Spring is an ideal time to repot the plant. When repotting, use a pot just one size larger than the previous one.

Grooming:

Abutilon’s success could be encouraged by proper pruning since it keeps them bushy and non-leggy and results in the blooming of beautiful bright flowers. Pinching off dead flower heads from the plant also aids in blooming.

Propagation of Miniature Chinese Lanterns Plant

Can’t get enough of your Chinese lantern plant?

Do you want to get even more?

If yes then you’re in luck because we have made a guide with everything you need to know on propagating your Chinese lantern plants. The Chinese lantern plant can be propagated by seeds as well as by division. The following guide will explain all the steps to both methods in detail.

By Seeds

First of all, we have propagation by seeds. You can collect the seeds from the dried plant during fall or you can simply purchase a packet of seeds.

If you plan to plant the seeds directly in your garden, ensure the last frost has passed in spring. The seeds are highly vulnerable to the cold and will die out. The young seeds need a soil temperature of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate successfully. Use a soil thermometer to ensure your soil is at optimum temperature before sowing.

Here are the steps for propagating your plant by seeds

  1. Whether you want to plant the seeds in a planter or directly in your garden, choose a place with bright direct sunlight.
  2. Fill your planter or garden bed with well-drained soil.
  3. Make holes 6-8 inches deep for your seeds.
  4. Hydrate your soil before sowing your seeds.
  5. Sow 3 seeds every 18-24 inches. Remember, the seeds need sunlight to germinate, so either keep them close to the surface or cover them with only ¼ of an inch of soil. Make sure your seeds are pressed in good to the soil.
  6. Water daily until you see the seedlings emerge.
  7. Continue to water daily as your plant grows.
  8. Once your seedlings are 4 inches tall, spread them to one plant every 18-24 inches.

By Division

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of getting seeds to propagate your plant, you can propagate it by division. All you need for this is a trowel, a planter, and potting mix.

Here are the following steps to propagate your plant by division.

  1. Choose a healthy stem and follow it down to the rhizomes and roots in the soil.
  2. Use your trowel to isolate a clump of rhizomes with attached stems.
  3. Take your new plater and fill the base with a well-drained potting mix.
  4. Place your cutting into the planter.
  5. Fill up the planter with the potting mix. Make sure that the crown is at the level of the soil.
  6. Water your plant regularly, and you’re good to go.

Common Species of Abutilon

Abutilon Pictum:

Native to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, this species is commonly known as Indian Mellow, the red vein abutilon, or the Chinese lantern.

Abutilon Theophrasti: 

This plant is usually known by the names of velvet plant, China jute, buttonweed, crown weed or the Indian Mellow. It is native to Southern Asia, mainly China and India.

Abutilon Hybridum:

Usually known as the parlor maple, variegated Chinese lantern plant, or the Chinese lantern flowering maple, this plant originates in South America.

Abutilon Indicum: 

Appearing as a small shrub, this abutilon or Indian Mellow is native to the subtropical and tropical regions of India.

Abutilon Megapotamicum: 

It is also known as the trailing abutilon. This plant is native to the tropical regions of Brazil and Argentina.

Is the Chinese Lantern Plant the same as a Tomatillo?

Also known as the Mexican husk tomato plant, the tomatillo is a closely related member of the Physalis genus. The tomatillo may look similar to the Chinese lantern plant. However, there is one fundamental difference. Beneath the husk, the Tomatillo produces a tomato-like fruit.

The fruit is edible and is used in Mexican cuisine like salsa. Another difference is that the husks of the tomatillo plant don’t turn bright orange as the Chinese lantern husks do.

Harvesting your Plant 

Due to the colors manifested by the abutilons, they make incredible decorations for all sorts of events. The pumpkin-colored pods make stunning decorations for Halloween and fall festivals.

When you’re ready to harvest your pods, grab a pruning shear and cut off a stem with a pod at the ground level. Remove all the leaves and dry your stem by suspending it upside down in a dark room. Ensure the room has good air ventilation so your pods can dry adequately.

Your pods should be completely dry within a few weeks, depending on the weather conditions. 

Home décor with Abutilon

Even if you are not very fond of plants, the presence of the lovely Abutilon flowers in baskets and pots around you will create a soothing effect on your body and soul. Abutilon dwarf species such as “Red Dwarf” could be extensively used for home decor and would keep your home brightened up all year.

  • It can be used as an ornamental plant placed in those aesthetic planter sets at your place. 
  • You may plant it in attractive sculpted pots to make your terrace or garden beautiful as it invites hummingbirds and butterflies. 
  • The fresh flower jute baskets can be used to hang these Chinese lanterns around your place. 
  • These could be hung in the living rooms or bedrooms as wall hangings to make your place smell heavenly.
Hanging Abutilons https://pixabay.com/photos/abutilon-flowers-flowers-bloom-5618683/

If you are interested in other indoor plants for your home décor, you can refer to other plants from our homepage.

Cures Associated with Abutilon

There are many great medicinal uses of this flower, including an anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and blood tonic agent. The plants’ multipurpose nature makes it an effective solution for flu and treatment of leprosy.

At different instants, this article covers some of its other uses, so conserving this plant should be one of our concerns. 

Common Diseases

There are certain diseases abutilon can contract, some of which are mentioned below:

Abutilon Mosaic Virus (AbMV) 

AbMV is a begomovirus, which infects abutilon species, mainly Abutilon Striatum (flowering maple). Abutilon striatum, the evergreen shrub, shows multicolored leaves, i.e., green mottled with yellow as a symptom.

This disease is also observed in other abutilon species, such as Abutilon hybridum, which shows a mosaic pattern with bright yellow spots on green leaves. [3] 

White and yellow mosaic patterns are common symptoms of AbMV. The disease often causes stunted growth in some plants due to decreased photosynthetic activity. However, the flower can still reproduce, and no serious harm is caused to the plant. 

Since the virus creates a mosaic pattern, it is an interesting fact that it adds to the plant’s ornamental value. Due to this reason, AbMV virus, which has its origin in South America, has no cure yet. Instead, infected plants are deliberately selected for usage in indoor décor.

AbMV is transmitted in the following ways:

  • Natural transmission through Silverleaf whitefly
  • Through material and tools used in the process of asexual propagation (grafting, cutting, etc.).

Cure:

The manual transmission can be prohibited via sterilization of tools.

Colletotrichum Coccodes

This disease mainly affects the velvet leaf (Abutilon Theophrasti). It appears as silvery lines on the leaves of the plant. It stunts the plant growth and may even cause the plant to wilt. The pathogen selectively affects velvet leaf and is considered a potential bioherbicide for this. [4]

Cure:

To control this disease, soil fumigants may be used. Moreover, frequent repotting and changing of soil would prevent the disease from occurring

Pest Attacks

Several pests and insects such as scale insects, whiteflies, and beetles may attack the abutilon plant. They are attracted by the sweet scent of the plant and may feed on the honeydew of the plant. However, their larvae feed on the plant roots damaging them severely.   

Cure:

Neem oil can be used as a solution in case of a pest attack.

Other Diseases:

Cercospora leaf spot, Rust, Alternaria, and root rot are among other notable diseases of abutilon.

Cure:

Cures include the use of a good fungicide, keeping leaves dry, and providing proper air circulation. 

Benefits of Abutilon as an Indoor Plant

As an indoor plant, it will not only add up to the scenic beauty of your home but will also enable you to take full advantage of its medicinal properties.

  • You can simply pluck some leaves to make a paste and apply them to wounds and ulcers to get relief. 
  • It also cures ear problems. 
  • The roots and bark may be used to prepare tonics that are aphrodisiac and anti-diabetic.
  • The raw flowers might be eaten as a vegetable or blended to make a curry that improves digestion. 
  • As low-maintenance plants, they are amazing to have around yet very easy to keep. 
  • When kept indoors, it cleans the environment by producing oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide.

Risk of Abutilon and the Solutions:

In general, this is a harmless plant but can cause skin irritation or allergies to humans if they come into physical contact.

Is the abutilon poisonous to dogs?

No serious problem has been observed for pets, except that it is indigestible to dogs and experiences vomiting or diarrhea. Exposure to moisture can cause them to develop fungi, which ultimately causes asthma problems in children.

So, in conclusion, if your pets are plant lovers, try to keep these indoor plants away from their range so they might not eat them or keep the pots at a high place.

Also, for yourself, do not forget to wear gloves while plucking flowers or leaves of this class to prevent irritability.

These dwarf flowering maple trees are a must-have in your homes as decorative pieces and ayurvedic elements. Keeping it indoors will also help you reduce stress by eliminating air pollutants and providing you fresh air to breathe in.

The humidity created due to indoor plants can help counter noise, control temperature, thus providing a wonderful environment.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is abutilon a houseplant?

Abutilons are beautiful flowering plants that bloom throughout the year in a variety of colors. Although they are often used as an indoor plant, they can also be grown outdoors in warm climates.

These colorful plants are known for their unique and eye-catching flowers and can brighten up any corner of your home. They are perfect for adding a splash of color to your indoor space, as well as your outdoor patio or garden.

Can Abutilon survive winter?

Abutilon is a tropical plant, so it is not suited to the winter. If you have an Abutilon plant, you can protect it by moving it indoors or to a sheltered location. In a cool room with indirect light, the Abutilon will need watering only occasionally.

You can also provide additional humidity by placing a terracotta pot on top of the plant’s container filled with water.

Can you grow Abutilon in pots?

Yes, you can grow Abutilon in pots. Abutilons are particularly well adapted to growing in pots. If so, use a “horticultural” mix designed for indoor plants.

Is Abutilon toxic to dogs? / Is abutilon toxic to cats?

The abutilon is non-toxic and safe for dogs, cats, and other pets. However, if consumed it will lead to indigestion, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Written by Chris Buckland

Hello, I’m Chris. I’m a houseplant expert. I have been Cultivating and Growing Houseplants for 20 years. Plants are like my children. I love to write about Indoor plants and share my experience. That's why I started writing everything I know about houseplants.

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