February 8
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Plant Genus of the family Malvaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Abutilon This genus of the mallow family is represented in most warmer parts of the world, but the majority of its 150 or so species are from South or Central America (including all those grown for ornament); the others are mainly from Australia and Africa. Most are shrubs with slender, tough-barked twigs but a few are annuals, perennials or even small trees. Leaves vary from heart-shaped to jaggedly lobed, their margins toothed in most species; twigs and leaves may be clothed with bristly or felty hairs. Flower structure resembles that of other mallows (for example Hibiscus), with 5 petals backed by a conspicuous calyx, and stamens fused into a central tube ending in a tuft of numerous anthers. The name ?Chinese lantern? alludes to the pendent bell-shaped flowers seen in many species, the petals curved downward but with spaces between their bases. But there are also species with flowers that open almost flat, notably a group from the southern Andes sometimes treated as the separate genus Corynabutilon. These are distinctive for the mauve to violet color of their showy flowers, in contrast to the yellows and oranges found in most other species. The fruit of Abutilon is a capsule with many 1-seeded compartments arranged like the spokes of a wheel, often with a weak spine or bristle at the apex of each. The popular garden abutilons are hybrids of a few Brazilian species, with pretty lantern flowers in shades from white through pink, and from yellow and orange to deep bronzy red. In mild climates they flower almost throughout the year, in cooler climates from spring to autumn. CULTIVATION: The garden abutilons are easily grown in the garden or indoors in pots in a well-lit position. They like a well-drained soil of moderate fertility and do equally well in light shade or bright sun, though they may need to be kept well-watered in an exposed position. In cool climates plants are often kept indoors until the worst frosts are past, then planted out for summer display; the newer dwarf cultivars are very suitable for this purpose. Prune off leading shoots in late winter if a compact form is desired, but note that some cultivars display their blooms best on long arching branches. Propagate from tip cuttings in late summer.
Gossypium Widely distributed across warm-temperate and tropical regions, this genus consists of 39 annual or woody perennial herbs, evergreen shrubs and small trees with alternate, palmately lobed leaves. The fruit is a capsule or ?boll?, splitting to release seed which is embedded in fine, dense white fibers of cotton. It is these fibers, mainly from the commercially cultivated annual Gossypium herbaceum, that are used in the production of cotton for the textile industry. CULTIVATION: Gossypium species prefer a rich moist soil in a protected but sunny position. Propagation is from seed sown in spring and, in some species, from cuttings.
Hibiscus This genus of over 200 annual or perennial herbs, shrubs or trees is widely distributed throughout warm-temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of the world. They are grown mostly for their large dramatic flowers, which are borne in great profusion singly or in terminal clusters, although they usually last for just a day. The open bell-shaped flowers appear in a wide variety of colors, and are characterized by a prominent staminal column and a darker coloring in the center. The alternate simple leaves are usually palmate. Some parts of some species are edible, while other species are grown for hedges. The fruit is a capsule. CULTIVATION: Most species of Hibiscus are drought and frost tender and prefer a position in full sun, in a rich and moist soil. Many will tolerate hard pruning after flowering to maintain their shape. The perennial varieties of Hibiscus are propagated from seed or by division, while the annuals are best grown from seed planted in the final growing position. Shrub types can be readily propagated from cuttings, grafting or from seed sown in containers for later transplanting.
Lavatera There are 25 species of evergreen or deciduous annual, biennial and perennial herbs and softwooded shrubs in this genus, which is related to hibiscus and hollyhock. They have a scattered distribution around the world, being found from the Mediterranean to the northwestern Himalayas, in parts of Asia, Australia, California and Baja California. The leaves are usually palmately lobed and slightly downy, and most species have attractive hibiscus-like flowers, with prominent staminal columns, in colors ranging from white to rosy purple. CULTIVATION: Shrubby mallows are suitable for planting in mixed borders where they will bloom abundantly throughout summer. They should be grown in full sun in a light well-drained soil. Too rich a soil will result in an excess of foliage at the expense of flowers. Prune after flowering to prevent legginess. Mallows tend to be fairly short lived but softwood cuttings taken in spring or early summer strike readily and are the usual method of propagation for the shrubby species.
Phymosia This is a small subtropical genus of the mallow family, Malvaceae. It consists of 8 species of decorative, evergreen shrubs or small trees from Mexico, Guatemala and the West Indies. They have broad, palmately lobed leaves with toothed or serrated margins and are cultivated for their clusters of bell-shaped flowers with 5 overlapping petals in shades of red, pink or mauve. CULTIVATION: In warm frost-free climates they are grown in partial shade in a very well-drained soil. They need ample watering, especially during the growing season. Tip prune when young to promote bushy growth. In cool-temperate climates, grow in a temperate or warm greenhouse. Propagate from cuttings or seed.

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