Shade has met its match. The brilliant array of bloom colors, fantastic foliage and superb performance that have earned the Flowering Maple (Abutilon hybrids) a prominent position in our inventory brighten dim corners, treed borders and containers year-around. Evergreen and cold-hardy in Chico, this plant will take morning sun, filtered light or shade in stride, producing a plethora of pendent bell-shaped flowers from spring through fall. Hummingbirds find the vibrant cups irresistible, and humans are similarly drawn to their Crayola-rivaling spectrum of hues—white, yellow, gold and palest pink through oranges and deep reds. The leaves deserve the plant’s common moniker, as most display five toothed lobes, distinctly resembling the Acer genus. Given good drainage and regular water, Abutilon becomes a small to large shrub at maturity, depending on the cultivar. For best structure, staking is required in taller specimens, and periodically pinching the growth tips will encourage a denser, bushier habit in plants of any size. Though myriad cultivars are available, displaying astounding variety in bloom shape and color, leaf texture and pattern, here are a handful of our favorites.
‘Apricot’—Aptly named, the peachy petals of this selection form an open bell shape, highlighted by muted red sepals. One of Chris’ picks, it is a prolific bloomer, and will reach some 6’ high at maturity.
‘Cristina’—My newest fetish, this lovely strain sports fiery tangerine blooms with slightly fluted petals. One of the more compact varieties, expect a bushy plant in the 3-4’ range.
‘Mobile Pink’—Courtney, our resident Abutilon expert, adores this one. Out of her extensive collection, she claims this is the most robust and floriferous. Growing roughly 3′ high and wide, it displays pale pink flowers with an umbrella-like form and lustrous petals.
‘Nabob’—One of the taller cultivars, at around 10’ unpruned, this is undeniably among the most striking bloomers of the bunch. It produces large, strongly cupped flowers in some shade between blood red and wine, primarily in spring and fall.
‘Tiger Eye’—Less prolific than some of the varieties named above, but definitely worth the wait; golden bells with red-orange veins and protruding red stamens add an exotic flair to the garden. The leaves are similarly tropical in appearance; deeply lobed, glossy and dark green. A larger plant, it may reach 10’ in time.
‘Victory’—Irresistibly cheery, the dainty golden flowers have fluted petals that seem to swirl out of a burnished orange calyx. The plant is densely clothed in small, felted leaves, belying a rather vigorous growth habit that can result in 10-12’ stature when mature.
Whether you seek a punch of color or cool whites and creamy yellows, velvety green foliage or dappled gold, look no further. The Flowering Maple is the go-to perennial for shade performance. The nursery is flush with these vibrant beauties right now, but they won’t last long.