Abutilon

Considering that we’ve got four Abutilons, it’s surprising I haven’t written about them until now. The RHS classifies them as hardiness zone H1b which means not hardy at all. It’s recommended to keep them in a heated greenhouse, so our conservatory fits the bill.

There are many, many species of Abutilon, and it’s not clear to me which ones we have. I do know two of the cultivars: ‘Julia’ and ‘Souvenir de Bonn’. The latter doesn’t produce many flowers, but spectacular ones.

They are large, perhaps two inches, and exquisitely veined in shades of orange.

There seems to be no particular time of year when this cultivar flowers. We have two of them, and the smaller one has flowered several times since March and is about to do so again.

It always has a small number of flowers: only one when it first started in March, and never more than four at a time.

‘Julia’ is different! The flowers are yellow, smaller, more open, and there are more of them.

Unlike ‘Souvenir de Bonn’, it appears ‘Julia’ has a flowering season, lasting perhaps from July to September which is when this photo was taken. I find the individual flowers slightly less fascinating than on the ‘Souvenir’, perhaps because they’re more monochrome, but they’re still very beautiful.

It may not even be clear that this isn’t a buttercup, but the flower is much larger than one, though slightly smaller than the flowers on ‘Souvenir de Bonn’.

In terms of sheer numbers of flowers, our third Abutilon cultivar eclipses both ‘Souvenir’ and ‘Julia’. Here’s a photo which is a few weeks old, and the small tree has even more flowers now!

I’m now exactly sure when it’ll stop. We bought it at the start of May, and it’s had literally hundreds of beautiful red flowers since then, continuously through the summer and autumn. An stunning display!

I don’t know which cultivar it is, but its willingness to flower is second to none.

It’s so intent on it that one has to keep a close eye on cuttings taken from this plant. Abutilons are easy to propagate by cuttings: take the end off a branch and put it in water, and within a month or two it’ll grow roots and you can plant it. However, cuttings from this last plant keep growing flower buds, and permitting them to flower is bad as it saps the plant of energy. So one has to nip them, sometimes several times a week.

Another thing to watch out for is watering. All our Abutilons are prone to drying out, and they don’t react well to it at all. Our small ‘Souvenir de Bonn’ is one of two plants made by cuttings, but the other one died after drying out while we were travelling. In consequence, we’ve moved our two largest Abutilons to self-watering pots — the sort with a large water reservoir at the bottom — and that seems to work well.

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