HAVE abutilons on the south side of my house and have been pruning
them into standards. I cut them back to the main stem every year,
but they grow so much they become top heavy. When we get strong
winds, they blow over, even though they're staked. If I prune them
to keep them in shape, this cuts the flowers off. Is there any other
way I can keep them in shape or do I have to forego flowers for
abutilons are not the easiest plants to train into standards. Like
their cousins, the hibiscus, they flower on new growth, so if you
cut them back severely you get no flowers for a while.
One of their great points,
however, is they can flower right through winter, so my personal
preference would be to try to have them flowering then and I'd be
willing to forego early summer flowers when there is a lot of other
colour in the garden. I'd tend towards pruning them in spring.
Even then, it's quite
likely they'd put on so much growth they'd still be prone to blowing
over, so make sure they have a really strong wooden stake for support.
Every now and then over summer selectively cut back some shoots
quite hard to restrict size, but not enough to spoil the flowering
Depending on your conditions,
you may even be able to get away with this type of selective pruning
all year and not have to cut the plant back at all in spring.
A point worth bearing
in mind with plants of this kind is the shoots you cut back in summer
tend not to grow away as strongly as those cut back in early spring
and they're likely to flower sooner. Also, try to avoid encouraging
strong growth - don't fertilise unless the plants look really deficient
and even then use a high potassium feed rather than high nitrogen.
Don't water them unless absolutely necessary.
You could also try taking
a spade to the root system every now and then, pushing it down as
far as possible, 60cm or so out from the trunk, to chop through
some roots. That should slow them down a bit.
Gardener, Issue 174, 2005, Page 28
Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.