Chinese Lantern Plant
Chinese Lantern Plant
Chinese lanterns can light up a garden with their brilliant blooms and interesting foliage.
Illuminating many a warm-weather garden in the United States, the Chinese lantern, a plant belonging to the genus Abutilon, comes in many shapes and forms. With maple-like leaves and colorful five-petaled flowers that resemble hanging lanterns (hence the common name), this group of plants consists of small trees, shrubs, and vines. However, their name is a little misleading, as they aren’t solely Asiatic in origin. In fact, there are about 200 species in the Abutilon genus.
Mostly native to South America, these plants have also been known to grow in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia. Several species are native to the American Southwest and Mexico, as well. In warmer climates, their perennial evergreen shrubs are grown for their colorful flowers and quick growth rates. In cooler zones, the shrubs are grown as annuals, both indoors and in pots outdoors. If you tried to grow them in the ground in these places, they probably wouldn’t survive the cold winter months.
Chinese lanterns flourish in rich, well-drained soils, but their light requirements vary according to location. Plants in hot climates need full shade; elsewhere, they do best with four to six hours of sun each day. In coastal settings, wind-protected locations with morning sun and afternoon shade are best. Water as needed to maintain consistently moist soil during the growing season. If you’re in a Mediterranean climate, decrease the water during the winter rainy season. Prune in-ground plants back by up to 30 percent in late winter using tools sterilized in a solution of 1 part household bleach and 9 parts water. When pruning, protect yourself from the potentially skin-irritating sap with gloves and long sleeves. Fertilize at pruning time with bone meal. Scatter it at the rate of 1/2 pound, or the manufacturer’s recommended amount, per 10 square feet and work it lightly into the soil.
Plants in the Abutilon genus typically grow to around 10 feet tall. Abutilon shrubs and trees can either be multi-stemmed or grow from a single stem, with multi-stem growth being more desirable when growing garden screens and hedges. Their leaves can be simple with entire margins or lobed like a maple’s with palmate venation. They usually have dense hairs, although some species have thinner ones than others. Some cultivated varieties even have variegated leaves — another feature that makes these plants so attractive to gardeners.
Please do adequate research on the plant you are purchasing regarding climate, zones, watering, care, environment for optimal success before purchasing.
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