Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Velvet Leaf, Butter Print, China Jute
Abutilon theophrasti

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Abutilon (a-BEW-tih-lon) (Info)
Species: theophrasti (thee-oh-FRAS-tee) (Info)

Synonym:Abutilon avicennae

7 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Gold (Yellow-Orange)

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall
Mid Fall


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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There are a total of 13 photos.
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2 positives
8 neutrals
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative kittyrobin On Oct 11, 2014, kittyrobin from Dallas, OR wrote:

Found this plant growing near my back deck this year. Never had seen it before. Took it to the extension office and they told me what it was. Last year our corn crop failed miserably. The ears never developed and they were crowed out by a yellow weed. It was called a smart weed . I am not taking any chances with a new type of crop destroyer. Farming is too expensive to lose everything to a pretty flower. Amazingly I also discovered a plant of American wild rice in my back yard. Never had seen one in Oregon before.

Neutral stormyla On Aug 29, 2011, stormyla from Norristown, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

One of these popped up in my yard this summer. It is a very rapid grower and is now 5' tall. I guess I will clip the blooms and seeds and cut it down. A bird must have planted it. Mine does not have velvet leaves, the leaves are completely smooth. It does resemble this plant in all other ways.

Neutral SurprisedGarden On Aug 19, 2010, SurprisedGarden from East Amherst
United States wrote:

This crazy plant popped up during the 2 weeks we were on vacation. It is huge, easily 9 feet tall now (after a total of 4 weeks of visible growth), with lots of flowers, and large leaves. I'm getting rid of it though, with all the warnings I see. I think it crowded out/shaded my struggling clematis.

Negative bigcityal On Dec 20, 2007, bigcityal from Menasha, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

A very opportunistic plant of disturbed sites including farm fields. Will out compete desirable plants if given the chance. I very often see non gardeners unwittingly coddle this plant thinking it is a sunflower.

Neutral catncrows On Sep 1, 2006, catncrows from Wadsworth, NV wrote:

Found one plant in my garden 4 years ago - let garden go fallow last two years- this year I have several. Squash seem to like them but not tomato. Easy to pull and deadhead. I'll cut all the pods this year before they seed just in case. Don't want them to "get away".

Neutral helens2ndgenera On Aug 11, 2006, helens2ndgenera from Grove City, OH wrote:

I am a beginner gardener. This year, I decided to grow my own flowers from seed by putting garden soil in patio containers. The problem I am having is I'm not familiar enough with leave formation to know which leaves are the flowers that I planted and which are weeds. I used 2 bags of Miracle-Gro garden soil. One bag had very few weed seeds so I was able to identify most of the leaves as flowers. The other bag of soil, on the other hand, was apparently full of weed seeds. I had never seen this plant before (I live in central Ohio), so I wasn't sure if it was a weed, but with the help of a weed book and this website I was able to identify this plant as velvet-leaf. All I can say at this point, is that this plant has thrived in the containers without a lot of care. Since it has the potential to become a noxious weed, I'll make sure that it doesn't seed. I gave this plant a neutral rating, because so far it hasn't been a problem and it is a pretty plant.

Positive AuntNawnee On Aug 8, 2006, AuntNawnee from Gary, IN wrote:

The first time I had ever seen this plant was this spring.I had purchased a bag of top soil and it had several tiny seedlings growing in it.Curious to see what they were,I planted the seedlings in several small pots.The two that took off growing well were Velvet Leaf and a Carolina Cranesbill.I love the look of the Velvet Leaf and am saving the seeds for next year.Everyone who sees it comments on its beauty.I know it is considered a weed,but "one man's weed is another man's plant of beauty".

Negative slredmond On Jul 21, 2006, slredmond from Battle Creek, MI wrote:

This is become a highly noxious weed, and in Canada they are claiming a 70% reduction in corn crop production where this weed is found. Argh!

The seeds can lie dormant for YEARS, and once disturbed can literally take over a field. This has become a tremendous problem. PLEASE do all you can to control this invasive weed.

Neutral WUVIE On Mar 20, 2006, WUVIE from Hulbert, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Not a bad plant if you don't mind awkward looking.

I enjoy growing Butter Print because the leaves
provide entertainment for me. The seed pods make
great additive for potpourri. After the season is
over, I collect the pods, yank out the plant and be
done with it.

Neutral htop On Aug 14, 2005, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

A native of India, velvet leaf is a naturalized plant throughout the United States. It can be found growing in cultivated fields, disturbed sites, along roadsides and beside railroad tracks. Velvet leaf is usually considered to be an annual. It has a large taproot and attains a height between 1 foot to over 7 feet. It is covered with short, soft, velvety hairs. The alternate, toothed margined, densely hairy on both sides, 2 to 6 inches long and wide leaves are heart-shaped. They are acuminate which means that they gradually taper to a point. The leaves have palmate venation (veins originate from a common point) and they have unpleasant odor when crushed. The plant blooms from June through October. The approximately 1/2 to 1 inch wide, 5-petaled yellow to yellow-orange blooms are quite attractive and are on short flower stalks (pedicels) in the upper portions of the plant between the stems and the leaf axils. The plant has distinctive 1 inch in diameter circular seedpods. They have a ring of 'prickles' around the upper edge and have a series of crimps along the sides that resemble the crimps along a pie crust edge. Hence, another common name for this plant is "pie-maker". The seeds can remain viable in soil for over 50 years.

The Chinese used (use) the plant for many ailments such as stomachaches, fever and dysentery and in experiments, it has been shown to be a depressant. It produces a strong fiber in the stems, China jute, that can be used in the making of rugs.

Abutilon theophrasti is considered to be a noxious weed in these states:
Colorado: Noxious weed
Iowa: Secondary noxious weed
Oregon: "B" designated weed, Quarantine
Washington: Class A noxious weed, Noxious weed seed and plant quarantine

Velvet leaf is such a problem, the Syngenta corporation in North Carolina is developing varieties of corn which produce an herbicide specifically targeted against it.

Neutral ladyannne On Jul 11, 2005, ladyannne from Merced, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant is an experience, worth growing just once simply to touch and feel the leaves. I have never felt anything else like it in the plant kingdom. As long as you clip the seed pods, you can easily control it.

Positive epperson On Jul 30, 2004, epperson from Othello, WA wrote:

a local home owner called me about three days ago about a weed he had never seen. i went and looked at it and figured out that it was velvet leaf. this weed is not seen ariund here( columbia basin,washington). the plant is over 7 feet tall and growing,one of the leaves we measured was 27 inches wide. we are going to waterand fertilize it to see how far it will grow. he said he had a bird feeder where the plant is growing and i suspect the seeds came from the bird feed.

Negative talinum On Aug 11, 2002, talinum from Kearney, NE (Zone 5a) wrote:

This plant is considered to one of the most important and serious row crop weeds in Nebraska. Although it is attractive, it will reseed everywhere.

Neutral eltel On Aug 9, 2001, eltel from Macclesfield, CHESHIRE (Zone 8a) wrote:

Abutilon theophrasti. Also known as Velvet leaf, Butter print and China jute, A. theophrasti comes originally from tropical Asia but has naturalized in the South East Europe, the Mediterranean and the US. The leaves are covered in fine hairs (hence one of its common names) and the flowers are a deep rich yellow. Usually described as an annual, it can be grown as a short lived perennial shrub to a height of about 3 feet.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Lucerne, California
Merced, California
San Ramon, California
Golden, Colorado
Atlanta, Georgia
Divernon, Illinois
Hinsdale, Illinois
Naperville, Illinois
Westchester, Illinois
Gary, Indiana
Westpoint, Indiana
Wichita, Kansas
Annapolis, Maryland
Brookeville, Maryland
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Erie, Michigan
Marshall, Michigan
Glencoe, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)
Saint Cloud, Minnesota
Wanda, Minnesota
Cole Camp, Missouri
Saint Robert, Missouri
Wadsworth, Nevada
Browns Mills, New Jersey
New Milford, New Jersey
Buffalo, New York
Durhamville, New York
Gastonia, North Carolina
Delaware, Ohio
Grove City, Ohio
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Kellyville, Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Norristown, Pennsylvania
North Augusta, South Carolina
Gainesboro, Tennessee
San Antonio, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah
Franklin, West Virginia
Hartford, Wisconsin
Menasha, Wisconsin

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