Collage: Hibiscus

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Hibiscus flowers fill our garden each summer from July through September. 

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Tree Hibiscus, also known as Hibiscus syriacus or Rose of Sharon; were first planted by earlier gardeners on this site.  Now they reseed themselves all over our garden.  Deciduous, their lean frames catch winter’s snow,  and hold seed filled pods to sustain our birds all winter.

Both leaves and flowers open a little late, but the flowers keep coming into September.  Butterflies, every sort of bee, and hummingbirds feast on their nectar from early July until autumn.

Rose of Sharon flowers remain fairly small, only a couple of inches across.  Our other perennial Hibiscus sport huge, saucer sized blossoms.

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Native Hibiscus moscheutos, which grows wild in the marshes near us, grows rapidly once the weather warms in early summer.  Though its flowers are short lived, they keep coming over several weeks.  The dried seed pods linger into winter, when we finally cut back its woody stalks.

Beautiful swamp Hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus, will soon burst into bloom in our garden, sporting scarlet flowers on towering woody stems.

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Hibiscus coccineus, another native Hibiscus, will bloom before the end of July. Its beautiful slender leaves gracefully clothe its tall stems. it will tower above the surrounding garden when it blooms.

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These showy, generous blossoms blend into a collage of color in our garden, animated by the many pollinators buzzing from one to the other, sustained by their sweet nectar.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Collage

 

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So Much to Love: African Rose Mallow

The second of the African Rose Mallow shrubs I purchased this season, planted in compost near our bog garden began the season as a rooted cutting in a 3" pot.

The second of the African Rose Mallow shrubs I purchased this season, planted in compost near our bog garden, began the season as a rooted cutting in a 3″ pot.

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We have been growing a new (to us) variety of Hibiscus this summer known as “African Rose Mallow.” I found a small pot of it in the water garden section at our local Homestead Garden Center in late May, and added it to our new bog garden.

There are so many things I like about this small shrub:  First, nothing has bothered it all summer.  Not a single leaf or twig has been nibbled by deer, rabbit, squirrel, or insect.  Its leaves remain pristine.

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September 3, 2015 rose mallow 009~

And what gorgeous leaves!  Their  delicately cut silhouette reminds me of a Japanese Maple’s leaf.  The color has remained a rich, coppery red throughout the summer.

Red leaves on bright red stems certainly makes a bright statement in this area where I’m also growing so many chartreuse and purple leaved plants.  This African Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella, has won my heart over the past three months for its eye-candy appeal and sturdy constitution.

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September 3, 2015 rose mallow 010

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It is a fast grower.  I’ve repotted the original plant twice, and it is already showing root growth from its drainage hole again.  I bought a second plant when I spotted it a few weeks later and planted it directly into compost around the edge of the bog.  Its growth has been even more vigorous than its sibling grown in a pot.  Both plants have grown taller than me, but neither has yet bloomed.  I’m still hoping to see buds form and blooms open before frost.

About three weeks ago I finally trimmed back the potted plant to encourage a bit more branching along the main stems, and plunked the two stems I pruned away into a vase of water by the kitchen sink.

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September 3, 2015 rose mallow 011

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My friends know my kitchen sink, flanked by two windows, is my magical rooting spot in the house.  One will always find stems of several somethings rooting in this bright, moist, protected spot where I can keep a close eye on their progress.

And these tall stems of the African Rose Mallow did not disappoint.  Although the stems were semi-hard when cut, the leaves have shown no signs of wilt throughout the process.  I first noticed the new white roots on Sunday afternoon, and they have grown enough this week for me to pot the stems up today.

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September 3, 2015 rose mallow 012~

I’ve returned the rotted cuttings to the bog garden for now, but I’m considering where I would like to plant them out once their roots establish.  It will definitely be somewhere it the front garden where I can enjoy them against the other Hibiscus which delight us all summer.

The H. acetosella are rated as hardy in our Zone 7 climate.  All of our native Hibiscus enjoy damp soils and are often found growing on river banks and near swamps.  Yet, they make it in our drier garden just fine, with a little watering during dry spells.

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September 3, 2015 rose mallow 013~

I’m planning to root another set of cuttings and produce  a few more of these luscious rose colored Hibiscus plants.  The leaves are edible, if one is hard pressed for a meal, and may be prepared like spinach.  They retain their color when cooked.

The leaves are also used as a medicinal herb in parts of Africa and South America.  They have anti-inflammatory properties and may also be used to treat anemia.  This is a good specimen for true forest food producing gardens, and I’m a little surprised to have not found it before this spring.

If you enjoy hardy perennial Hibiscus and love plants with beautiful foliage, this African Rose Mallow may be to your liking, too.  But you only need to buy one, and then take as many cuttings as you like to increase your collection.

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Our newly rooted cuttings, potted and returned to the bog garden to grow on for a few weeks before we plant them out into the garden.

Our newly rooted cuttings, potted and returned to the bog garden to grow on for a few weeks before we plant them out into the garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Riddle Me This: African Rose Mallow

June 3, 2015 garden in rain 030

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What looks like a Japanese Maple, but will give large lush flowers in mid-summer, attracts hummingbirds, can grow in waterlogged soil, and is edible?

An impossible combination, you say?

Well, I found the answer by accident.

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May 28, 2015 garden 010

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I was browsing the water garden section at a local garden center last week, looking for little starts of Asclepias.  And this wonderful burgundy plant with fine foliage grabbed my attention.  How pretty!

Having no idea what it really was, I added it to my cart on a whim.  (Yes, shopping without my readers again.)

We’ve started a new bog gardening area this spring, and I’m adding interesting plants to liven it up.  This pretty red thing was just what I needed to contrast with the native chartreuse Sarracenia flava  we are growing this year.

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Sara

Sarracenia flava, a native Pitcherplant

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Later, when I did a little research, I was duly impressed with the versatility of this wonderful plant.  African Rose Mallow, Hibiscus acetosella will grow to about 5′ high and wide.  This plant originated in Africa, and was first recorded as a distinct species around 1896.

Traders  carried it to Brazil and Southeast Asia, where it was grown as a food source for African slaves.  This Hibiscus remains more popular in Brazil than in Africa, and is still grown as a spinach like vegetable.  Its rose pink flowers are used for coloring beverages like lemonade, although they don’t lend a distinct flavor of their own.

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June 3, 2015 garden in rain 028

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Although we don’t plan to dine on our ‘Cranberry Hibiscus’ this summer, we look forward to watching it grow.  Its blooms will attract hummingbirds to this part of the garden.  It will prove an interesting addition to our new bog garden.

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June 1, 2015 perennial bed 028

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We have had excellent experiences with the new Hibiscus cultivars we added to the front garden last summer, and all have returned this year.

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June 3, 2015 garden in rain 010

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 Hibiscus has proven very easy to grow in our garden, and gives a long season of boom.

I plan to take cuttings of this new African Rose Mallow within the next few days, and hope to establish it in more areas this summer.  I’m glad I followed the prompting to purchase this plant, even without recognizing it as an Hibiscus.

A happy Serendipity; this riddle’s answer has pleased us immensely.  We can always find magic, when we remain open to it.

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June 3, 2015 garden in rain 029

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Hardy Hibiscus

Hibiscus Moscheutos, or Rose Mallow, in late July

Hibiscus moscheutos, or Rose Mallow, in late July

 

Hibiscus flowers are a quintessential joy of summer gardens.  One of the largest, brightest flowers we’ll find in our garden, ever, Hibiscus takes its place beside the Magnolia grandiflora for flowers the size of luncheon plates. Hibiscus flowers make us think of tropical vacations, aloha shirts, and rum drinks. They bloom during the hottest, muggiest part of our summer, taunting us out into the garden from our air conditioned shade indoors.

 

A dragonfly rests on a Hibiscus bud .

A dragonfly rests on a Hibiscus bud .

Loved by hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and dragonflies, hardy hibiscus are always the center of activity in the garden. Not only are they an important source of nectar for hummingbirds, but they also attract small nectar loving insects which hummingbirds love to eat. Once the flowers fade in autumn, and their seed pods ripen, hardy Hibiscus  feed goldfinches, cardinals, tufted titmice, wrens, and other songbirds looking for nutritious  seeds all  winter.

 

A bumblebee enjoys the abundant pollen of a Hibiscus blossom

A bumblebee enjoys the abundant pollen of a Hibiscus blossom

Hibiscus

Hibiscus moscheutos or Rose Mallow

Although big box stores and garden centers offer potted tropical Hibiscus plants each summer, there are several varieties of hardy hibiscus native or naturalized right here in coastal Virginia.  In fact, you’ll see many hibiscus, or Rose Mallow, plants blooming in July along the James and York Rivers, and in the marshes along the Colonial Parkway.  Our native and naturalized varieties need no pots, no coddling, readily self-seed, and come with an agreeable price tag.  The tropical varieties must be brought in before frost or left outside to die; the natives are deciduous, but reliably return the following spring.

Hardy hibiscus comes in two forms:  herbaceous perennial and deciduous shrub.  Both leaf out quite late in the spring.

 

July 6 2013 garden 010

 

Hibiscus syriacus, also called Rose of Sharon, or Althea, is a deciduous woody shrub.  Its first leaves appear in late spring, and it begins flowering in mid June.  Flowers continue into September.  The leaves turn yellow in autumn and linger until after frost. The herbaceous perennials, which begin sending up their green stems and leaves in mid June, bloom in mid-July and August.

HIbiscus syriacus, or Rose of Sharon

HIbiscus syriacus, or Rose of Sharon, is a favorite nectar plant for hummingbirds and bees.

Rose of Sharon is native to eastern Asia, and is the national flower of South Korea.  It is so beautiful that it was carried all over Asia and Europe by traders in the 16th century before coming to North America with the English colonists in the 18th century, where it was called Althea Frutex.  The flowers are edible, and the Koreans also use the leaves.  Growing 8’-10’ tall, and 6’-8’ wide, it is hardy to Zone 5.

Rose of Sharon in a mixed shrub border with Hydrangea and Lilac.

Rose of Sharon in a mixed shrub border with Hydrangea and Lilac.

July 29, 2012 garden photos 019

Rose of Sharon is best used as a back drop for a perennial bed, as a screen, or in a border of mixed shrubs. Here several Althea shrubs form a backdrop for the butterfly garden.

This vase shaped shrub flowers from June through September in our area.  Its flowers are 2”-4” wide, with five petals forming a deep throated flower with pronounced pistol and stamens.  The throat is often a dark maroon, and the flowers come in shades of white, pink, and lavender.  Some double forms are available, but most of the flowers are single.  Each flower lasts a single day, but buds are produced prolifically throughout the season.  Flowers form on new wood so the plant can be pruned in autumn or spring.

Rose of Sharon, or Althea

Rose of Sharon, or Althea

Rose of Sharon shrubs tend to grow very tall and leggy, and so annual pruning helps the plant to bush out and become a more substantial shrub.  Mine are sometimes blown over in strong winds, but can be set upright, staked, and they will continue to thrive.  Although reasonably drought tolerant, Rose of Sharon doesn’t appreciate too much water or too much fertilizer.  Some of my shrubs have simply died over the winter for no apparent reason, while their sisters two feet away survived just fine.  Rose of Sharon often doesn’t even leaf out until after the Azaleas have bloomed, so patience is important.  Their flowers are worth waiting for, especially if you enjoy watching the beautiful creatures they attract.

 

A bee covered in pollen from the generous Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus flowers.

A bee covered in pollen from the generous Rose of Sharon.

That being said, Rose of Sharon is not a good candidate for a “specimen shrub” in the landscape.  They are good as the backdrop for perennial borders, although tall ones will sometimes droop over from the weight of their blooms and shade the plants growing in front.  They are good planted as a mass, used for a screen, or even used as a foundation planting along a back wall where windows are quite high.  Rose of Sharon work best in a mixed shrub and perennial border.  They will carry the hottest part of mid summer when the hydrangeas have faded out but the Camellias haven’t yet come into bloom.

 

Rose of Sharon

An Althea with double flowers

 

Rose of Sharon produces millions of seeds, and these seeds self-sow wherever they can.  It is considered invasive in CT, but not in VA.  This is a benefit if you want more Rose of Sharon shrubs in your landscape, or have friends who do.  They are large enough to identify and pull up by May if you want to discard the seedlings.  New plants can also be started by layering or taking green cuttings of new wood in early summer.

 

Rose of Sharon

Japanese beetles will eat Rose of Sharon buds, but can be picked off easily.

These tough shrubs will grow in full sun to partial shade in a variety of soils.  They grow as well on slopes as on flat ground, compete well with other shrubs, and have very few pests.  I’ve seen Japanese beetles munching their flowers, and occasionally a caterpillar snacking on a leaf.  The damage done was minor and didn’t detract from the beauty of the shrub.

There are actually several herbaceous perennial Hibiscus plants which grow will in our area, although only two are considered natives.

 

July 17 hibiscus 007

Hibiscus Mutabilis, also called Confederate Rose, is native to China, and most commonly grows in the Gulf Coast states in North America.  This is a huge plant, sometimes growing to 10’ or more in a single season, especially in frost free areas.  Even if it dies back to the ground in the winter, it comes back strong the following summer.  It has white blossoms about 6” across which gradually turn pink, and in some cultivars red, over a period of several days before dropping off.  Flowers on the same plant will appear in these different colors all at the same time.  Flowers can be single or double depending on the cultivar.

Hibiscus coccineus

Hibiscus coccineus, native in the Deep South, is hardy to Zone 6b and grows with little fuss or care.  Also known as Swamp Mallow or Scarlet Mallow, it can grow in normal garden conditions.

This plant has large, coarse, deeply lobed leaves which open late in the season.  Hibiscus Mutabilis is hardy to Zone 7, and is commonly found in Zones 7-9.  It works best in a shrub border as it is inconspicuous when dormant, and quite large and showy in mid-summer.

 

July 16 2013 Hibiscus 001

Rose Mallow, or Swamp Mallow, is native to Virginia and naturalizes easily in sunny areas with moist soil.

Hibiscus grandiflora has the largest flowers at 8”-10” across.  The flowers are a delicate light pink.   It is a very large plant topping out at 8’, and prefers to grow in the wet soil of swamps and the edges of ponds.  Hardy in Zones 6-9, it sends up new stems each spring covered in fuzzy, five lobed grayish green leaves.  This plant is native to the southeastern United States and is most commonly found growing in full sun in wetlands.

July 17 hibiscus 002

 

The hardy Hibiscus growing in my garden is Hibiscus moscheutos, also called Rose Mallow or Swamp Rose Mallow.

 

HIbiscus moscheutos growing with Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon.

HIbiscus moscheutos growing with Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon.

Numerous stems appear each year in early summer, rapidly growing from the crown, which expands each year.  Leaves are heart shaped, medium green, and slightly fuzzy.  Plants grow from 2’ to over 6’ high, depending on how well their needs are met.  Plants prefer moist soil in full sun, but will grow in drier conditions and partial shade.  This shrubby perennial is native to the Eastern United States from the Great Lakes south to the Gulf Coast.

Flowers have five long petals, usually with a dark red throat, and come in shades of white and pink.  Flowers are generally 6” across and may be 5”-6” deep, with a large stamen and pistols loved by hummingbirds and bees.  Flowers open in the late afternoon, and close again in the morning.  Many hybrid cultivars are available.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus Moscheutos

To encourage the best performance, water this Hibiscus during dry spells, and top dress each spring with an inch or two of finished compost.  The plant does best in moist, rich soil. Collect the seeds once the seed heads open in autumn.  These plants readily self-sow in the garden.  I cut back the dried stems from the previous year in winter or early spring.

Other hardy Hibiscus plants are available, and those interested might enjoy looking at the selections available from Plant Delights Nursery near Raleigh, NC.  http://www.plantdelights.com/searchprods.asp  They also carry a number of hybrids with beautiful colors.  Most online and mail order nurseries carry a number of selections of hardy Hibiscus.

Hardy Hibiscus along John Tyler Highway in James City Co.

Hardy Hibiscus along John Tyler Highway in James City Co.

Locally, Homestead Garden Center carries a dozen or more varieties each spring.  Several colors are still available now in mid-July, and have been reduced in price.  Homestead always has healthy, beautiful plants and a very knowledgeable  family staff to help answer questions.

Rose Mallow, or H. Moscheutos growing beside College Creek on the Colonial Parkway.

Rose Mallow, or H. Moscheutos growing beside College Creek on the Colonial Parkway.

 

Hardy Hibiscus are tough and forgiving plants, easy to grow, welcoming to wildlife, beautiful in season, and good additions to sunny areas in a forest garden.

 

Hardy Hibiscus growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jamestown.

Hardy Hibiscus growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jamestown.

July 17 hibiscus 009

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Scarlet Mallow

 

Wild Hibiscus

 

 

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