Host: Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist
If you are looking for a flowering plant that commands attention from midsummer to frost, hardy hibiscus is worth considering today on Southern Gardening.
Hardy hibiscus should not be confused with the much smaller flowered rose of Sharon. The flowers of hardy hibiscus can be up to a foot in diameter. This means the flowers are the star of hardy hibiscus. Colors range from white to pink to red. But it doesn’t stop with solid colors. There are striped or veined selections, and even quilted having the appearance of bumps and ripples. The flowers only last for one day, but enough buds are produced to have steady color until frost. The foliage can be as attractive the flowers. Foliage colors will range from bright green to bronzy red. Leaf shapes are just as interesting with some being deeply lobed.
Cutting the plant back up to one half at the beginning of summer will help develop good lateral branching and in many cases eliminates the need for staking in the larger selections.
In north Mississippi hardy hibiscus will die back to the ground. Patience must be practiced as growth of hardy hibiscus is very slow to emerge in the spring or even early summer. On the coast prune back to shape the stems in late winter. Only in the most severe winters will this die back on the coast.
Hardy hibiscus pairs well with ornamental grasses with the contrast of foliage and flower textures. Having a splash of tropical color at a time when other flowering perennials are starting to slow down is a great reason to have hardy hibiscus in your garden.
I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.