Looking for that rock-solid perennial to deliver no-full color in the landscape year after year? Consider adding hardy hibiscus. This plant delivers on all points in Kansas City and the Midwest: bold flowers, nice foliage and easy care.
Hardy hibiscus is a durable perennial that is often confused with its tropical cousin. Hibiscus are members of the mallow family, which have large circular open-face flowers. The main difference between the two are their names and hardiness. The tropical hibiscus is best known as a patio plant that winter kills, while the hardy plant returns each spring. Do not get this plant confused with rose of Sharon, which is also a hibiscus. Rose of Sharon is a woody shrub, while a hardy hibiscus is a perennial that dies back each fall.
Hardy hibiscus does best in full sun locations. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, from drier to even moist or boggy. Best flowering is achieved when there is ample moisture. Drought stress in the spring will reduce growth and blooms.
The plant can be purchased at local garden centers. It forms large fleshy roots that establish quickly. The plant rarely needs to be divided. It remains attractive all summer long before dying back in the fall. Maintenance is the removal of the dead stocks in the late fall or winter. A note of caution: This plant is one of the last perennials to emerge in the spring. Give it time to return for another season of growth.
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Many newer varieties of hardy hibiscus are on the market. Older varieties were larger plants reaching 6 feet or more. Taller varieties can be cut back in the spring after reaching about 2 feet in height. This keeps the plant more compact and bushy, creating a more pleasing look. Compact varieties, 2 to 3 feet tall, are now on the market. The plant has either a flat green/gray leaf or tinges of reddish tones. The leaves have two patterns; one is heart shaped, and the other looks more like a maple leaf. The leaf color and shape vary with the variety as many of these plants have been crossbred, creating diversity.
The flowers of the hibiscus are the real showstopper. Flowering begins in late June and can last into the fall depending on variety and care. Flowers can be big, measuring up to a foot across. There are simple dinner-plate shaped hibiscus with beautiful centers and different hues to create interest and depth of color.
Flower colors range from white, pinks, reds and various bicolors. A number of newer releases of this plant make it more adaptable in various locations in the garden.
Examples of popular varieties are Fireball, Plum Crazy, Berry Awesome, Peppermint Schnapps, Blue River II and Cranberry Crush. Now is a great time to visit a local garden center as they will be blooming, and you can pick up your favorite to add to the garden.