Blossom XLIV: Brilliant Hibiscus

Hibiscus coccineus

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Brilliant Hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus, blooms in our August garden.  Its first blossoms unfold weeks after the Hibsicus moscheutos and Hibiscus syriacus begin their annual display. 

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Last evening’s bud opened early this morning.

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Also known as scarlet rosemallow, this beautiful Hibiscus is native to our coastal plain, here in the Southeast.  We live along its northern most range, and it is found more commonly south to Florida, and west across the Gulf Coast to Louisiana.

Hardy to Zone 6, brilliant Hibiscus grows in full to partial sun in moist soils.  This is a great choice for rain gardens, along streams or ponds, and places where the soil takes a while to drain.

Though a white flowered form is available, we have only the scarlet in our garden.

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This beautiful native welcomes hummingbirds, butterflies, moths and bees.  As you can see from its outrageous anatomy, it offers hospitality like few other summer flowers.

It’s a large plant, growing to 6′ or more tall where its needs are met.  The flowers are large and are carried near the top of the plant.  It eventually forms a small clump, and like other Hibiscus, will spread its own seeds around in late summer.

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Unlike our Rose of Sharon tree Hibiscus plants, these woody Hibiscus will die back to the ground each fall, and should be cut back before spring.  New stems emerge from the ground in mid to late spring each year and quickly grow, eventually forming buds by early August.

The buds will open, one or two at a time, and then brown as their seeds ripen.  Seeds are a favorite autumn treat for many birds.  The stems may be left in place through winter, or cut and used to construct shelters for many bees, small wasps and other insects through the winter months.

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Hibiscus coccineus is a dramatic and beautiful plant through all of its stages of annual growth.  I’ve never found it grazed by deer or rabbits.  It takes little care from the gardener, aside from keeping it watered in dry spells.

You’ll find many hybrid Hibiscus bred with this native as one of the parents.  It is prized for its unusual leaves as well as for its flowers.  Look for hybrid cultivars with burgundy or purple leaves and plants that remain a bit shorter over the season.

Untroubled by heat, humidity, intense sun or torrential rains, this is a stalwart and dependable native for gardeners in the Southeastern United States.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
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Blossom XLIII: Verbena
Blossom XLII: Carrots in Bloom

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

11 responses to “Blossom XLIV: Brilliant Hibiscus

  1. You have a hibiscus that we lack?! No way!

    • Hard to believe . .. I bet you have some of its hybrids , though 😊

      • Perhaps. You would think that all sorts of hibiscus would be popular here, and the tropical hibiscus really were years ago. However, they are somewhat rare. I saw more tropical hibiscus grown for houseplants in Oklahoma City than I see in gardens in the Los Angeles region.

        • I always drool over West Coast photo spreads in gardening magazines. Your climate allows so many more wonderful plants that can weather winter out of doors. I love the succulent gardens, Bougainvillea and palms, especially. I just assumed folks in your area would grow every sort of Hibiscus, and especially the tropical beauties.

          Is the smoke bothering your area? My heart breaks for California with these fires. I’m headed to the West Coast in a few months, and hope that there has been plenty of rain by then.

          • We happen to be in one of those odd spots that is not getting much smoke. They sky is orange right now, but the smoke is high up. Fire is quite natural here. It is just very sad that there are so many people affected by it.

            • Yes, very sad to see so much destruction and so many lives affected. An orange sky? With such heat? The video we see on the news is so alarming. I hope you aren’t having to spend much time outside working in it. Please take good care of yourself. I hope all of these fires will be out soon.

              • The smoky sky is high up. The air quality is not very bad on the ground. I do happen to work outside, but do not notice the smoke much. I only notice that the sunlight has a weird color to it. It happens like that sometimes. When it gets bad we get ash.

  2. I love it’s wild look – the hybrids are nice, but this one is naturally perfect!

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