Abutilon - how to grow it and enjoy it
Our mild climate makes it possible to grow semi-hardy plants outside and be rewarded with some pretty exotic looking plants late in the season. In October there are plants either popping up as autumn bulbs or surprising us with long flowering displays. Abutilon are long-flowering Brazilian medal-winners in an autumn planting scheme. They belong to the genus of mallow plants, (Malvaceae) with an exotic look and bright colours, often golds, pinks and reds.
Abutilon ‘Victory’ is a trailing variety, reaching up to 2m high. It’s happy outside as long it’s protected from frosts below 5 degrees. I haven’t lost one yet and as I garden on the edge of Dartmoor don’t worry about it being tender.
It’s semi-evergreen, losing leaves as new ones push through. Let it stand free as a trailing shrub, or tie it like a short climber. A wall can provide shelter from frost and support, but it might starve the roots from moisture and that’s no good for this tropical, greedy-feeder. Make sure you keep it well watered and fed.
As the days shorten you want to keep the flowering going for as long as possible, so think about the passage of the sun through your garden and position it for as many hours of sunshine as you can.
Prune if you must in late spring, when you can also take softwood cuttings for back-up plants in case we get a really hard winter that catches us all out.
I enjoy the colour this plant brings to the garden. I dot them where the colours can be seen at head height to appreciate the contrast between the gold and red flowers. They work well on the terraces so visitors experience them at different heights. I think there’s a lot to be said for looking at the detail of October plants. The big sweeping drifts of summer colour may be gone but there is still plenty to enjoy in the garden.
Nick Haworth, Head Gardener