November 20, 2012

Plant of the month: Hibiscus

You know a plant is destined to be in your garden someday when it keeps showing up on your camera's memory card.
  • A plant you didn't think you particularly cared for, but it keeps catching your eye.
  • A plant you notice on the way to photograph another plant, but you just can't ignore it.
  • Oh, and it's photogenic.


Obviously I don't have any Hibiscus growing in my garden right now. Not much is growing in my garden right now. And actually I've never planted or tended Hibiscus. But for some reason, I can't ignore them anymore. No better time to celebrate a flamboyant plant than when the garden outside is drab and dull. These golden beauties planted near a park bench in New Orleans were an afterthought. I was snapping photos of other plants, while these guys were screaming, "Look at us! Take our picture!"

I didn't know much about Hibiscus before writing this post, since I've been trying to ignore them all these years. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I considered them too showy and bright. But now I'm surrendering and admitting they're simply...spectacular.

According to American Meadows, there are two main types of Hibiscus--tropical and hardy varieties. The tropicals are native to Asia and the Pacific islands, and can be grown in some areas of the U.S. as shrubs or annuals. The hardy varieties, on the other hand, survive as perennials in climates as cold as USDA zone 4!

There are hundreds of species of Hibiscus, according to an examinar.com article about Hawaiian tropical flowers.


I believe this vibrant showstopper is a tropical variety of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, commonly known as Chinese Hibiscus.


It was growing as a hedge between the sidewalk and a stately home in New Orleans' garden district.


This graceful beauty looks to be a variety of the hardy Hibiscus moscheutos, commonly called Swamp Mallow or Rose Mallow. Although it can be grown as a perennial in cold climates, it also tolerates extreme heat. I photographed these Hibiscus blooms on one of the hottest days of the summer in Branson, Mo. I believe the high temperature was 107 that day, and these shots were taken in the late morning.




All Hibiscus plants prefer sunny locations--in short supply in my garden. But maybe I can find a spot with dappled sunlight. Or maybe a sunny spot in my next garden...


I'm linking in with Dozen for Diana at Elephant's Eye. Check out her blog for plant recommendation from gardeners around the world.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

31 comments:

  1. Hardy hibiscus is definitely on my wish list.

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    1. I might have to pull out some struggling shrubs to accommodate it, but I have a spot in mind now...

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  2. I've seen those horticultural OTT horrors that make me want to run screaming into the night. But in the garden where I grew up, was an old fashioned simple dark red hibiscus. Those flowers were devoured with gourmet delight by the tortoise! In my garden now I have Hibiscus tiliaceus, still waiting for it to flower again!

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    1. Oooo, I want to see your photos of H. tiliaceus when it blooms. Are the flowers yellow or orange? I think the bright, flamboyant ones are actually growing on me now. Not in my garden, because they would be out of place. But in the appropriate setting... Hawaii, or New Orleans...

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    2. Almost a year has passed, still NO flowers. Strange.

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    3. That's odd. When would they usually bloom in your area? During spring or summer or fall? I looked them up, and they're lovely flowers--yellow to orange, coral, and red. Looks like they can grow into large trees, too. Will you take the plant with you when you move?

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  3. They are a bit of a drama queen, hogging the spotlight, but they deserve it don't they?

    Beautiful shots.

    Jen

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    1. Thanks, Jen. Yes, drama queens is exactly right--especially the big, bold, multicolored ones. But they are stunning, and they like the camera.

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  4. Love hibiscus! Those white ones with the pink centers are gorgeous! I have to admire anything that keeps blooming in over 100 degree temperatures!

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    1. I think the Rose Mallow is the type I would go with here. Facing due south...lots of sun all winter to warm their roots...and dappled sunlight all summer. It's looking more likely the more I think about it!

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  5. I have learnt, over the years, never to say "never" about a food item or a plant. So I now adore olives and tomatoes, and spent an hour today trying to work out where I could plant an autumn flowering camellia!! As to memory cards being revealing, I first realised I had fallen for my now-husband when looking at the photos I took at a Bonfire Night party. He was in almost every one...

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    1. What a sweet story about your husband! That would be very telling, indeed! I thought I was beyond changing tastes in the garden--but it doesn't seem to matter how old I get, my favorites keep changing. I wish I could have Camellias, though--you are so fortunate!

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  6. I love my hardy hibiscus...they are indeed show stoppers and very easy to grow.

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    1. Good to know, Donna! I didn't think I ever wanted to grow them, but they've been flirting with me for a while now, and I think they might have convinced me to find a spot for them.

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  7. Like Donna, I too have the hardy Hibiscus and look forward to when they flower each year. Such varieties in your images. As a photo, I like the one looking from behind. Beautiful.

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    1. Thanks, Donna. The strong sunlight shining through the blooms on that hot day captured my eye. Again, these flowers were flirting with me--I hadn't intended to photograph them, but I couldn't resist. I need to be more open-minded!

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  8. Your photos are all so beautiful, Beth, that it makes me want to add hibiscus to my shopping list for next season! I usually don't plant hibiscus, but last year I bought two of the tropical ones for container plantings when we had my daughter's wedding reception here. I found myself drawn to their blooms all summer long, too. The only problem with them, I found, was that the Japanese beetles liked them as much as I did!

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    1. Thank you, Rose! After my recent experience, I doubt I'll ever turn away from a Hibiscus flower again. They're too easy to photograph! Too bad the Japanese beetles can't resist them either. I suppose they munch on both the tropical and hardy varieties?

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  9. One of the most important things about the hibiscus species you mentioned is that it is native to eastern North America. I tried growing it in a less than full sun spot and it died, could have been another cause though.

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn. I should have included more links and information about the sources (native status) of the hardy hybrids. Here’s a link I mentioned: American Meadows. And here’s another good one: Chicago Botanic Garden. Good to know about your experience with the Hardy Hibiscus. Thanks!

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  10. Yes, it's one of the most showy flowers! I have only one plant, and I need to take a special care of it. Our soil is acid, but hibiscus neeeds more sweet soil. I add some lime around it to keep it blooming.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that ph-preference information! Sounds like it would perform well as a foundation planting, which is what I'm thinking I might try.

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  11. I also have ignored hibiscus for the same reason you started. But they grow well here, and my parents had a hardy one that was a beauty. This year I decided to accept and even celebrate the tropical side of my semi-tropical climate, and that naturally means flamboyant hussies that can take the heat. So I am seeing hibiscus in my future!

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    1. Your garden growing conditions sound perfect to me, Deb! We'll have to compare notes if we both decide to plant them.

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  12. hmmm ~ these look even more attractive now that there's nothing blooming outside! I've bought & grown quite a few hibiscus but now I am really drawn to the double ones. Your photos are excellent! Hope you had a good Thanksgiving holiday.

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    1. Yes, it's pretty bleak out my back (and front and side) windows. Thanks for your kind words, Kathleen. It looks like I'll be joining the ranks of the Hibiscus owners at some point. Maybe I'll pull out a couple struggling non-native bushes and replace them with Hardy Hibiscus plants. I really enjoyed the blooms in Branson.

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  13. I have a lot of them! :) H. syriacus trees alongside the street and several small trees in my garden and on my terrace; H. rosa sinensis on my terrace (during late spring/summer/early autumn) and inside at present. Spectacular and easy growing plants! :)

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    1. Oh my goodness, Dona. Your garden must be so vibrant! Good to know they're easy to grow, too.

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  14. i wonder whether hibiscus is an acquired taste? for years I resisted too, but eventually gave up like you, Beth, and surrendered to their charm. I grow plants that are not strictly hibiscus, but are known as the Australian version, Alyogyne heuglii. They're not in a sunny enough spot, but I persevere. great photos!

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    1. Thanks! I didn't even realize what was going on until I started thinking back to the gardens I've visited in the past year, and I realized ... oh, when I was photographing Roses, there were those vibrant Hibiscus blooms by the park bench ... and when I was on a mission to capture Crepe Myrtles, those pretty Hibiscus hedges were blooming nonstop in the heat!

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  15. I have Hibiscus moscheutos "Lady Baltimore" in my garden. Beautiful blooms, although the plant really struggled to get established when I planted it in late spring right before heat and humidity. But it did survive and if it returns next year, I have high hopes that it will do much better.

    Beautiful blooms - http://www.gardenofaaron.com/2012/07/hardy-hibiscus-one-day-only.html

    Did you know that Hibiscus acetosella (annual in our 6/7 zone) supposedly has edible leaves, calyx and flowers?! http://www.ediblelandscapers.com/plants.html

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