There are a number of species of Abutilon, but the ones grown in our gardens are generally hybrids. Abutilon megapotamicum, from Brazil, is one species that is often seen in Sydney. It has large red calyces and small yellow lantern blooms. It is a rather lax plant, with arching branches, and it can be trained over arches or as a weeping standard plant on a single trunk. It will grow in sun or part shade and copes with fairly ordinary conditions, though responds well to mulch and fertiliser. It can be grown in a reasonably large pot. There seem to be two forms of this plant: a groundcovering type and a shrubby one up to 2-2.5 m in height. There is a variegated cultivar of the groundcovering form, known as 'Variegatum', with leaves mottled with yellow markings.
Abutilon megapotamicum flowers over a long period from autumn till late spring. I enjoy growing it with other flowers in bloom at this time in a similar colour range, such as Justicia rizzinii and Reinwardtia indica. The best time to prune is around the end of November. Abutilon plants are often attacked by a nasty leaf-rolling caterpillar in summer. The low-toxic spray Success is useful to deter these pests. Abutilon can get very woody after a while, and may need to be replaced with a fresh plant struck from a cutting. Cuttings taken in autumn or spring will take root easily if kept in a humid environment.
Flowers in March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November.