Saturday, August 11, 2007

There Are Hibiscus, Then There Are Hibiscus

Every time we'd go to Florida, I'd be enthralled by the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) in bloom. So many vibrant colors grabbed my attention every time we'd pass by them when walking or driving just about anywhere. Sadly, I knew we couldn't put them in the ground here in Ohio and expect them to live through the winter.

But that didn't mean I
couldn't have hibiscus in Ohio. I could keep them in containers and take them in and out of the house as the weather dictated. Two winters ago, I bought a hibiscus plant for two dollars when we were in Florida and I brought it home on the plane. It survived the rest of the winter with a southern exposure in the house and then I planted it in the ground, pot and all, when night temperatures reached 50° consistently.

It bloomed beautifully for me, both the following summer and even most of the winter while it was inside. Then as spring approached, something happened and it suddenly died. I suspect I forgot to water it one too many times. Usually I overwater, so I'd been trying to not do that and I fear I went to the other extreme and the hibiscus didn't survive. For two dollars, I sure got a lot of enjoyment out of it anyway.

But there's a way to enjoy hibiscus in the north without all that in and out business. There are two hybrid hibiscus that are hardy to our zone 5 winters: Hibiscus syriacus and Hibiscus moscheutos.

The easiest way to tell if a hibiscus is hardy for us here is to look at the leaves. If they're glossy, it's probably tropical. Last week, Kara and I went nursery hopping to see if there were any late season bargains to be had and we found some gorgeous tropical hibiscus at KMart for $5.50! They were lush and healthy and came in nice-looking square pots, too. Kara bought one and I bought two to put on each side of the pool steps.

'Carolina Breeze'

'Reggae Breeze'

I'll bring them in this winter and attempt to keep them going until I can put them outside next summer. The gorgeous citrus blooms scream "Florida!" to me and they're worth the extra effort to try and overwinter them.

Last year, I planted two Hibiscus moscheutos, which are hardy. They have ginormous blooms measuring 8-10 inches across. This hibiscus dies all the way back to the ground after a hard freeze in the fall, and begins growing again in late spring.


'Plum Crazy'

I also planted four
Hibiscus syriacus, also known as Althea or Rose of Sharon. The blooms are similar to other hibiscus, but are much smaller, being approximately 3-4 inches across. These do not die down to the ground after frost, but they do lose their leaves. They too are rather slow to break dormancy in the spring, so don't think they've not made it through the winter just because they're later than most plants to show signs of life.

(grown as a standard)

'White Chiffon'

'Blue Satin'

'Blushing Bride'

Unfortunately, 'Blushing Bride' didn't make it through our crazy winter and spring. Many people lost their Rose of Sharon bushes this winter, so I guess I'm fortunate I only lost one. Right now, all of the hibiscus are blooming - tropical and hardy.


Annie in Austin said...

You have such beauties, Kylee - good luck with keeping the tropical kinds over the winter,

I really like the White Chiffon and Blue Satin, good names for the textures of Rose of Sharon flowers.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Annie in Austin said...

You have such beauties, Kylee - good luck with keeping the tropical kinds over the winter,

I really like the White Chiffon and Blue Satin, good names for the textures of Rose of Sharon flowers.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Robin's Nesting Place said...

These remind me of Alabama. I haven't tried to grow any hibiscus here in Indiana yet. I thought about getting a Rose of Sharon this spring but I wasn't sure how it would do here, so I passed. Maybe next year I'll get one.

Sweet Home and Garden Carolina said...

Beautiful collection, Kylee. The Rose of Sharon is one of my favorites and is the national flower of my hubby's native land, Korea. Mine has been blooming since early July ! It is the off spring of a hundred year old mother tree. Since I gave my neighbors seedlings, her children are all over the backyard gardens on my block.

Ki said...

Beautiful collection of Hibiscus. Sorry to hear your Blushing Bride died. The Rose of Sharons around our neighborhood are really putting on a good show this year. I love the one that turns from a purple to pink as it ages (don't know the name) and also the Blushing Bride.

You could also grow the okra which has a beautiful flower and is a relative of the ornamental Hibiscus but the flowers last only a day. But you do end up with something to eat as well.

Gina said...

these pictures are beautiful. the blue one looks like it has stuff shooting out the middle and the red one looks like a giant.

Bob said...

WOW! these are spectacular. Some very good hybrids that you are growing. I was at the nursery last week looking at some of these but didn't buy them. Right now I don't have much space left. Looks like I'll be trying to make some. Thanks for inspiring me.
All the best, BOB

Tira said...

Those are lovely, I like the hot tropical orange ones and the blue one. Aren't they cherry flowers, always ready to make you smile?

Alice said...

I'm glad you stopped posting photos of hibiscus when you did - I'm not sure I could have taken any more beauty in one They just got better and better. Absolutely beautiful.

Your garden must be lovely. I'm now going to cruise further on down and see what I can find.

Cheers -


MrBrownThumb said...


That's an awesome collection of hibiscus flowers.

Sherry said...

Wow, your hibiscus are gorgeous! They are all so pretty, and I especially love the Plum Crazy, and Carolina Breeze. Great collection, and beautiful photos of all of them. I'm going to look for "Plum Crazy".. that is so pretty. How tall does it get?

Catherine said...

Your photo's are beautiful and your Hibiscus even more so...that plum crazy is really an eye catcher..and of course I'm partial to blue ~so loved the Blue satin, not taking anything away from Carolina breeze,~gorgeous...But..the Reggae Breeze~just beautiful!,reminds me of being at the beach~must be the beautiful hues!!

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