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Abutilons or Chinese lanterns are closely related to hibiscus, and most of the hundred or so species have pendulous, hibiscus-like flowers. Cultivars produced by hybridising some of the South American abutilons have all been placed in one group known as Abutilon x hybridum, and these are the ones most commonly grown in Australian gardens. They have a wispy, delicate form and colourful, lantern-shaped flowers. For gardeners who prefer plants with a more dense habit, new compact varieties are also available. Another popular abutilon is Abutilon megapotamicum, which is a prostrate or ground covering species with small orange flowers. There is also a variegated leaf form, Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Variegatum’. Megapotamicum means ‘from the big river’ referring to the Rio Grande in Brazil.

Plant details

Common name: Chinese lantern 

Botanical name: Abutilon x hybridum

Description: Evergreen shrubs with attractive maple-like leaves and an open, pendulous habit. They grow to about 2-3 metres (6-10′) tall. Flowers are produced in September to December, but they spot flower at other times. Flower colours include white, pink, red, yellow, orange and salmon.

New compact varieties:

Abutilon ‘Goblin’
Hardy, dwarf growing shrub to 1.2 metres (4′) high. The small lantern-shaped flowers have carmine-red hoods, red petals and brown stamens. Long flowering, drought tolerant.

Abutilon ‘Golden Bell‘
Dwarf Chinese lantern growing to only about 80cm (3’) tall. It produces masses of deep rich yellow flowers for most of the year.

Abutilon ‘Halo‘
Hardy, dwarf growing shrub to 1.2 metres (4’) high. Flowers have corn-coloured petals and golden stamens. Flowers for most of the year.

Best climate:

Abutilons grow well in most parts of Australia, except for the very cold mountain zones. In inland areas be sure to water well and keep protected with mulch. In hot inland climates abutilons appreciate some light shade.

We showed a newer range of dwarf varieties which have a flatter flower which is more visible than the bell shaped varieties.