Abutilon (Boule de Neige Indian Mallow) is a fast growing evergreen. Form mid-spring to mid fall; this plant will be ablaze with pendant, bell-shaped white flowers, set off by the 4 to 8 inch long, light green, oval-shaped leaves. This plant is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 9 and 10. However, if you happen to live in a colder zone, as I do, you can grow the Abutilon in a pot and take it indoors before the first frost.
When the Abutilon is growing in the landscape, it can reach a height of 12 feet with a spread of 10 feet. If you are growing it in a pot as a houseplant, you may want to prune it back to keep it in a manageable size. This shrub has been a long time favorite of gardeners, especially during the Victorian age. People would grow it in pots in their conservatories. The fragrance of the flowers filled the air.
Soak the Seeds
The day before you intend on planting your seeds, soak them in warm water overnight. This helps soften the seed coat so the seeds can germinate easier. If you notice any seeds floating on the top of the water, discard them because they are not viable.
Prepare Pots and Potting Soil
Gather several small 2-inch pots, disposable cups, or nursery cell packs, four to six weeks before the last expected frost. If you use the disposable cups, poke two holes in the bottom to allow the excess water to drain away.
You will need some seed-starter or well-draining potting soil for your pots. You can buy this soil at garden centers or make your own soil by combining equal amounts of compost, peatmoss, and perlite together.
Moisten the soil before filling your pots. To do this, cover your worktable with a tarp or an old plastic tablecloth. Pour the soil on top and spread it out so it is at least 2 inches deep. With a sprinkle watering can, pour some water over the top of the soil. Mix the contents with your hands. Test the soil to see if you have added enough moisture by grabbing a handful of soil. Squeeze the soil, and then open your hand. What did the soil do? If the soil fell apart, you need to add more water. If you were able to squeeze water out of the soil, or it gushed between your fingers, you have added too much moisture. To fix this problem, add more soil, or leave the soil so it can dry out. What you are looking for is soil that holds its shape when you open your hand.
Fill the pots with moistened soil. Gently firm the soil with your fingers to remove air pockets. The soil level should fall a 1/2 inch below the rim of the pot. Place the pots into a tray. This makes carrying them easier and holds the pots in an upright position. We use an old baking pan with high sides or an old pot for this.
Sowing the Seeds
Lay one Abutilon seed in the center of each pot. You can use two seeds, but if both germinate, you will have to remove one of the plants. I hate pulling out a plant, so I usually just plant one seed per pot. Press the seed with your finger so one side of the seed coat is in contact with the soil. Barely cover the seed with vermiculite or sieved potting soil. The seeds need light to germinate.
Wet the vermiculite using a spray bottle filled with water. Place the tray of pots in a warm, bright location in your house. A windowsill works well or if you have a growlight, put the tray under that. Make sure to allow 4 inches of space between the light and the top of your pots. If you have a heat mat, set the temperature to 70°.
Check the soil every day for moisture. Mist the soil to keep it moist, but you don’t want so much water that it is soggy. It can take one to three weeks for the seeds to germinate. As the seeds sprout, adjust the grow lights so you have 4 inches of space between the light and the top of the seedlings at all times.
When the Abutilon reaches 2 to 3 inches, or they have their second set of true leaves, transplant them into the next size pot. Continue to grow them under growlights or place them in a bright window. Turn the pots so the plants grow straight, or they will lean toward the sun. In the late spring or hen the weather warms outside and there is no danger of frost, you can take your potted plants outside. Place them in an area that offers wind protection, and has sunny to partly sunny conditions.
Feed the young Abutilon plants with a fertilizer that has extra phosphorus. To tell the phosphorus content, look at the middle number on the fertilizer package. Mix and apply according to label directions.
University of Mexico: Abutilon