Although commonly called Flowering Maple, Abutilon striatum, is not a Maple tree. This plant gets this common name because the leaves resemble the leaves of Maple trees. Flowering Maples are in the Mallow family and closely related to Hollyhocks, Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon and Okra. Another relative of Abutilon striatum is the weed commonly called Velvet Leaf, while the flowers on Velvet leaf are smaller and the foliage is different the seed pods are similar in both plants. This plant is commonly found throughout South and Central America but is thought to be native to Brazil. In the United States it is grown as a shrub in warm climates and as an annual or houseplant in colder climates.
Parlor Maples were brought to North America from Europe in the 19th century where they quickly became a popular houseplant because of the handsome foliage and attractive flowers. Unfortunately this plant isn't as popular as a houseplant today as it once was because of the availability of more exotic looking tropical plants. I commonly see small plants growing in planters around Chicago during the summer but rarely see it for sale in garden centers in the Chicagoland area. I wish Flowering Maples were more utilized and available for sale because they are far more interesting houseplants than the ficus or schefflera. When happy Flowering Maples can flower all year long and their wonderful flowers come in a red, pink, yellow and salmon colors. Indoors they like bright light and over the winter should get a minimum of 3-4 hours of direct light with cool nights and warm days.
I personally prefer the solid green leaves over the mottled yellow leaves that I may come across when I'm lucky enough to encounter a Flowering Maple in a garden center. The mottled leaves are a result of virus commonly called Abutilon Mosaic Virus that was discovered and spread in 1868. That year one seedling in a shipment bound for England was discovered to have bright yellow mottling on the leaves. Quick to recognize a money making opportunity the importers vegetatively propagated the unusual seedling and it quickly became a favorite among Flowering Maple growers. Abutilon Mosaic Virus can't be transmitted by contact between plants but it can be transmitted if you graft an infected plant onto another or grow from infected seed. The virus doesn't affect the plants health or ornamental value-if anything the virus actually enhances the aesthetic quality of the plant.
If you're tired of the usual houseplants and looking to add a houseplant to your home or office consider growing a Flowering Maple, they're easy to propagate from seeds or cuttings and aren't very fussy.