Flowering maple (Abutilon) is not really a maple at all, but is a South American shrub in the Malvaceae family which might also be referred to as a Chinese bellflower or Chinese lantern. This small woody shrub has a tree-like habit and is easily trained; it is just one of a group of 90 related species including Indian mallow, many of which are pollinated by hummingbirds. The 2" bell-shaped flowers differ with each variety, but generally resemble a cross between a hibiscus and a hollyhock, and range from whites through yellows/reds all the way up to the less-common blues. The foliage is usually a pale green, but there are variegated forms with white or yellow mottling. The primary blooming season for most abutilons is spring through fall, but they will often flower periodically through the winter as well.
Flowering maples may grow to ten feet in height and spread, and require filtered sun and fairly consistent 60-70 Fahrenheit degree temperatures in most parts of the country abutilons are considered houseplants — not so in California! These tropical beauties seem to respond best to early spring pruning, which can help keep the plant from becoming rangy. Because of Davis' intense summer heat, abutilons seem to prefer bright dappled or afternoon shade in a sheltered area along with a well draining but evenly moist soil. Abutilons don't require much additional care in our climate, but should be protected from frost, fertilized monthly, and watched for scale insects. Abutilons can be propagated from seed or softwood cuttings taken at any time of the year.
For a listing of other plants grown in Davis, please visit our Town Flora page.