Lantern Ilima Plant: Growing and Caring Tips

Add a touch of tropical beauty to your garden with the Lantern Ilima plant (Abutilon megapotamicum).

This Brazilian native species features stunning bell-shaped flowers that resemble lanterns. Not only do these vibrant blooms enhance the aesthetic appeal of your garden, but they also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

lantern ilima plant

In this article, we'll guide you through the process of growing Lantern Ilima plants, from cultivation requirements to propagation and care. Discover how to bring the captivating charm of Lantern Ilima to your warm climate landscape and create a stunning floral display.

Plant Specifications:

Scientific Name:  Abutilon megapotamicum

Alternative Names/English Names: Lantern Bush, Urn Plant, Red vein Indian Mallow, Chineese Lantern 

Color: The flowers of the Lantern Ilima plant come in shades of orange, red, and yellow.

Taste: The Lantern Ilima plant is primarily grown for its ornamental value and does not have a notable taste.

Height: The plant can reach a height of approximately 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters).

Spread: The Lantern Ilima plant has a moderate spread, typically around 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 meters).

Maintenance: This flowering shrub prefers well-draining soil and requires regular watering to keep the soil moist. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, making it adaptable to various garden conditions.

Hardiness Zone: The Lantern Ilima plant is generally suited to USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11, where temperatures remain mild and frost-free.

What is Lantern Illima Plant:

The Lantern Ilima plant, scientifically known as Abutilon pictum — syn. Abutilon striatum, is a charming flowering shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions. It belongs to a species of Abutilon in the family Malvaceae. The plant features beautiful clusters of tubular flowers that resemble lanterns, hence its common name. The flowers come in various shades of orange, red, and yellow, radiating a warm and inviting aura.

Benefits and Usage:

The Lantern Ilima plant not only pleases the eyes but also offers several benefits. The flowers attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, contributing to the overall biodiversity. Additionally, some traditional medicinal systems employ the plant for its potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. However, it's important to note that further scientific research is needed to validate these traditional uses.


The Lantern Ilima plant is generally considered non-toxic to humans and pets. However, it's always recommended to exercise caution and avoid ingesting any parts of the plant. If you have specific concerns or allergies, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Cultivation Requirements for Lantern Ilima plants:

  • Climate:

    Lantern Ilima plants thrive in warm climates and prefer temperatures between 65°F (18°C) and 80°F (27°C). They are generally not frost-tolerant, so if you live in a colder region, it's best to grow them in containers that can be moved indoors during winter.

  • Sunlight:

    These plants prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Choose a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

  • Soil:

    Lantern Ilima plants grow well in well-draining soil. A good potting mix with a blend of sand, perlite, and organic matter is suitable. Ensure the soil is moist but not waterlogged.

  • Watering:

    Provide regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings.

  • Fertilizer:

    Feed Lantern Ilima plants with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging for proper application.

  • Pruning:

    Prune the plant regularly to maintain its shape and promote bushier growth. You can trim back the branches after flowering to encourage more blooms.

  • Propagation:

    Lantern Ilima plants can be propagated from seeds or cuttings. Softwood cuttings taken in spring or early summer tend to root well. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and plant it in a well-draining potting mix. Place the cutting in a warm, bright location and keep the soil consistently moist until it establishes roots.

Steps for Growing Lantern Ilima Plant:

Seed Starting:

  1. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date.
  2. Mix seed-starting mix and plant seeds 1/4 inch deep.
  3. Germinate under warm conditions (70-80°F).
  4. Transplant seedlings to larger pots when true leaves form.

Planting from Stem Cuttings:

  1. Take 6-8 inch softwood cuttings in spring/early summer.
  2. Remove bottom leaves and dip in rooting hormone.
  3. Plant cuttings in pots with well-draining soil.
  4. Placein shade and keep soil moist until rooted (2-4 weeks).


  1. Choose a spot with full sun and fertile, well-drained soil.
  2. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and backfill with native soil.
  3. Water thoroughly after transplanting.

Ongoing Care:

  1. Water deeply 1-2 inches per week.
  2. Mulch around the base to retain moisture.
  3. Fertilize monthly March-October with balanced fertilizer.
  4. Prune after flowering to encourage new growth.
  5. Bring indoors before the first fall frost.
lantern ilima plant

Troubleshooting Tips for Common Lantern Ilima Plant Problems:

Yellow leaves:

Check soil moisture and sunlight. Improve drainage if the soil is too wet, or water more if it's too dry. Consider adding fertilizer to provide necessary nutrients.

Slow growth:

Make sure the plant is getting at least six hours of sunlight per day.

Check for pests or diseases that might be affecting growth. Amend the soil with compost and fertilize monthly to promote healthy growth.

Flower drop:

Ensure consistent watering and protect the plant from frost or freezes, as temperature stress can cause the blooms to fall prematurely.


Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on new growth. Spray the plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Repeat the treatment weekly until the aphids are gone.

Spider mites:

Spider mites are tiny mites that spin silky webs under the leaves.

Knock them off with a strong water jet or spray the plant repeatedly with water. This will help control the infestation.

Powdery mildew:

If you notice a fluffy white coating on the plant, it may be a sign of a fungal infection called powdery mildew.

Prune off the affected areas and spray the plant weekly with an anti-fungal spray.

Increasing air circulation and sunlight can also help prevent the spread of powdery mildew.


If the soil is consistently soggy, it can lead to root or stem rot. Improve the drainage of the soil by amending it with organic matter.

Water the plant only when the top inch of soil is dry. If rot has already occurred, cut and discard the damaged parts to prevent further spread.


This article has provided instructions for growing Lantern Ilima plants from start to finish. By following the cultivation steps outlined, from seed starting indoors to planting in the garden and ongoing care practices, gardeners can successfully grow these tropical beauties.

Their bright blossoms are sure to delight and attract pollinators all summer. If you want to incorporate more colorful blooms and foliage into your warm climate landscape, consider giving Lantern Ilimas a try this season.

Visit your local nursery to source Lantern Ilima seeds, transplants, or cuttings - and get planting! With a little care, your garden can soon be graced with the charming lantern-like blooms of this Brazilian native shrub.

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