Abutilon

Given warmth, these tender shrubs will bloom for you all year round.

EG7XWM Alamy Abutilon 'Patrick Synge'.jpg

Abutilons are the eternal performers of the garden, continuing to produce their colourful bell-shaped flowers throughout the year if housed in a warm conservatory or heated greenhouse.

There are over 200 species of abutilon, which come from tropical and sub-tropical parts of North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. While some are hardy enough to be grown outdoors in the UK, most are too tender, traditionally used as glasshouse plants, summer bedding or patio plants, brought indoors in winter. Most are complex hybrids, bred from sub-tropical and tender South American species such as A. darwinii, A. striatum, A. megapotamicum and A. pictum. Once popular in Victorian times they are currently enjoying a renaissance with exciting new varieties appearing each year. Abutilons form open, brittle- branched shrubs, clothed in soft, maple-like leaves. They can achieve upwards of 4m (13ft), but usually are much shorter in pots or when bedded out. The pendant flowers, often in clusters, are produced on the tips of new growth, so if kept growing they will continue to flower, even in winter in temperature of 15C (59F).

Lax-stemmed A. megapotamicum and its close hybrids, such as ‘Kentish Belle’ are hardier, and can be trained and grown on a warm, sheltered, south-facing wall in the warmer parts of the UK, over-wintering more reliably in well-drained soil.

Grown in pots, they enjoy most composts, but particularly loam-based such as John Innes No 3, or blends of John Innes and peat-free, as long as they are well-drained. They respond well to feeding with a high potash fertiliser. They can also be pruned in late winter keep them in shape and more compact. You can use the stems as cuttings or wait for fresh soft-wood stems in late spring or early summer.