How to Grow Flowering Maples: The Complete Chinese Lantern Guide

Abutilon flowers is large genus of flowering plants in the mallow family. Common names include Indian mallow and velvetleaf; ornamental varieties may be known as room maple, parlor or flowering maple.
Photo Credit
Nadezhda Kharitonova
Botanical Name
Abutilon x hybridum
Plant Type
Hardiness Zone

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Planting, Growing, and Caring for Flowering Maples

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Flowering maple, Chinese lantern, Chinese bellflower, Indian mallow, whatever you choose to call this stunning plant, it is sure to make a statement wherever it is planted! Typically grown as an annual, it is also becoming a popular houseplant! Learn how to plant, grow, and care for the flowering maple.

About Flowering Maples

Pssst! The flowering maple isn’t a maple at all! In fact, the flowering maple is a member of the mallow family, which includes hibiscus, hollyhock, okra, and rose of Sharon, and boasts similarly shaped flowers up to 3 inches in diameter that butterflies and hummingbirds love to visit. Read about more plants that attract hummingbirds.

We can thank breeders for the beauty and variety in the hundreds of cultivars: It’s a houseplant and an outdoor plant. It’s compact, at a foot or so tall, or a focal point at several feet. Its three- or five-lobe leaves can be evergreen or variegated. It bears blooms of salmon, orange, red, white, yellow, and bi-colors—in some cases, flowers appear in several colors
on one plant. Some cultivars bloom in summer and fall, while some more recent hybrids bloom year-round. (Note that leaves can cause minor skin irritation on contact.)

Also known as parlor maples, flowering maples are semitropical, frost-tender perennial shrubs that are winter-hardy in Zones 9 and 10. They can be treated as annuals or overwintered elsewhere and are also suitable for container planting (both indoors and out!).

Abutilon striatum (Red Vein Indian Mallow), a showy plant with orange blooms of bell-shaped flowers. The blooms have red veining over yellow. Abutilon hybrid Juliet
Photo: GOR Photo


Propagation can be by seed or cuttings. Scarify seeds 24 hours before planting (nick or scratch with a fingernail file or sandpaper) to speed germination. Sow on the surface of damp seed-starting mix 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost, barely covering them. Maintain the temperature at 75°F and keep the seeds moist. Expect germination in 14 to 21 days. 

Softwood tip cuttings can be taken at any time. (Some growers recommend doing so in late summer for the following growing season and, if desired, discarding the parent plant.) Prepare a damp seed-starting mix. Dip the 4-inch cutting into rooting hormone and plant. Set aside in a warm, bright room. Provide moderate bottom heat, if desired, to speed rooting. 

Flowering maples are not picky about soil, but they perform best in rich, well-draining soil amended with compost. Check out our guide to composting at home.

Water well and keep constantly moist but not soaking or standing in water.


Provide full sun to partial shade, depending on the variety.

Feed every 2 to 4 weeks, using a fertilizer high in phosphorous—to promote flower production—at half-strength. For bushier plants, prune occasionally. 

Overwintering Flowering Maples

If overwintering outdoor plants indoors, provide intense bright light and cool (50° to 60°F) temperatures at night. With sufficient light, many will bloom throughout the winter. Avoid fertilizer and water only enough to keep the soil slightly moist, such as once per month. Note that overwintering can result in a more vigorous plant in the following year.

Flowering Maples in Containers

Pinch the tops of the branches to encourage a compact habit and to avoid legginess. This will also help to keep the plant root-bound and thus control its size—and potentially boost its efflorescence. Plants bloom best when pot-bound. Flowering maples are fast-growing, so repot to a slightly larger container every year or two. 

Flowering maple house plant in pot
Flowering Maples do well in containers and also make great houseplants!
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Wit and Wisdom

  • Abutilon’s other common names include Chinese lantern, Chinese bellflower, and Indian mallow, although very few species are native to Asia.
  • Variegation in flowering maple’s foliage is caused by Abutilon mosaic virus, which is transmitted in cultivation by grafting or contaminated tools and in nature by the silverleaf whitefly. However, the virus does the plant no harm.
  • According to Wisconsin Horticulture, “Flowering maples were popular during the Victorian era, later fell out of favor in the gardening world, but have returned to modern gardens in a plethora of forms.”
About The Author

Carol Connare

As the 14th editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Carol Connare works with writers and other editors to develop “new, useful, and entertaining matter” for the annual Almanac as well as books, calendars, and other publications. Read More from Carol Connare

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