September 6, 2014
Hibiscus are one of those must have summer plants that we can count on to brighten up our gardens and landscapes. Today we’re at the Mississippi State Trials Gardens looking at their gorgeous hardy hibiscus. Hardy hibiscus are very different from tropical hibiscus. First these plants are winter hardy, having been bred from the native hibiscus found in the swamps and ditches of the Gulf coast. And second, hardy hibiscus doesn’t offer the shiny, glossy leaves of tropical hibiscus. But a trait the two varieties certainly share are the bright, beautiful, and almost gaudy flowers. The flowers of hardy hibiscus are HUGE, sometimes up to 12 inches across. In fact, they are often called dinner plate hibiscus. Just look at this deep burgundy flower of the Cranberry Crush hibiscus. The large, sheer petals draw your attention inward to the delicate pistil and stamen structure. Sultry Kiss hibiscus features pretty pink flowers, contrasted next to the lobed burgundy foliage. Peppermint Flare flowers emerge light pink and mature to white except for wild red flecking throughout the petals. The blossoms of Berrylicious are a delicious looking lavender rose with a deep strawberry red eye and attractive ruffled petals. Another type of hardy hibiscus is the native Hibiscus coccineus, also called Texas Star. But instead of offering a dinner plate flower, this tall plant features striking six-inch red flowers that actually resemble a star. So if you’re ready to feast on a dinner plate of gaudy color, take a look at some of the different varieties of hardy hibiscus. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.