These evergreen, fast growing shrubs of up to two and three metres tall have the common name of Chinese lanterns and belong to the Malvaceae family. With over 200 species in the genus they have been distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics including Australia.
Closely related to the hibiscus, abutilons have delicate, pendulous, lantern-like or bell-shaped blooms from spring through to autumn and even in winter in mild climates. The flowers range in single or bi-coloured shades of white, yellow, pink, red and orange.
Although these eye-catching shrubs can grow leggy with some light maintenance throughout the season, tip pruning when young and cutting back in late winter, they make an attractive shrub for birds and butterflies in the garden.
Chinese lanterns like to grow in moist, well-drained, rich soil in sun or part shade and protected from strong winds. They can tolerate light to moderate frosts once established.
Another appealing feature of some of these shrubs is the delicate looking, maple-like, palmate leaves all year round. Smaller compact varieties have now been bred and are often available locally.
The flowers are edible and quite sweet as they are nectar rich.