Once considered houseplants, flowering maples are being used increasingly for summer color in the garden. Their common name comes from their leaf shape -- roughly maple-shaped. Flowering maples are semi-woody shrubs, hardy only to Zone 9. They'll grow about 2 feet high by summer's end.
Description of flowering maple: A. megapoticum variegatum has leaves marked with light and dark green patches, bearing yellow and red flowers with large, dark purple, pollen-bearing anthers. Older plants trail. A. striatum thompsonii is upright with orange-salmon flowers. Varieties of A. hybridum bear white, yellow, salmon, or purple flowers.
Growing flowering maple: Plant in well-drained soil and water only if dry. Incorporate a slow-release fertilizer into the soil before planting. Plant 12 to 15 inches apart. In Zones 9 and 10, flowering maples will benefit from partial shade, otherwise full sun and eastern exposure are preferred. During vigorous growth, pinching tips will encourage branching. Dig and bring indoors before frost.
Propagating flowering maple: By cuttings or by seed. Start seeds indoors in winter (germination time is 3 to 4 weeks) with bottom heat at 70 degrees Fahrenheit for outdoor bloom. They are also easily propagated from semi-mature cuttings.
Uses for flowering maple: Use in small spaces where the attractive foliage and dainty bells can be viewed close up. They also make ideal container plants especially in raised situations where their flowers can be seen more easily. For indoor use, repot before frost and cut back by half before bringing indoors. Provide at least 4 hours of direct sunlight indoors for good blooming. Pinch tips to induce bushiness.
Flowering maple related varieties: Varieties from seed include Benary's Giant, with drooping, crimson-rose bells. Many cutting-grown varieties are available from nurseries.
Scientific names for flowering maple: Abutilon hybridum, A. megapoticum variegatum, A. striatum thompsonii