Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)

These flamboyant flowers are perfect in pots

The genus Hibiscus contains perennial and annual shrubs and trees that offer late spring through summer interest. One of the last plants to come up in spring, they are well worth the wait. Showy, tropical-looking plants, hibiscus make a bold statement in the landscape with massive dinner-plate-sized flowers, which can be single or double blooms, and whose vibrant and diverse colorations include almost every hue. The flamboyant flowers attract butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds to the garden.

Hibiscus is a large genus of approximately 300 species that typically grow to between 4 and 8 feet tall, with some cultivars reaching 15 feet in optimal conditions. H. syriacus (rose of Sharon, shrub althea), H. rosa-sinensis (Chinese hibiscus), H. acetosella (red leaf hibiscus), and H. mutabilis (confederate roses) are some of the most common species, but there are many hybrids available. Hybrids, H. hybrid (hardy hibiscus, rose mallow, swamp mallow), are often complex crosses of H. coccineus (scarlet rose mallow), H. laevis (Halberd-leaved rose-mallow), and H. moscheutos (hardy hibiscus, rose mallow).

Native to tropical regions and considered a bog plant, hibiscus grows best in humid conditions with temperatures above 60°F. In fact, hibiscus needs warm temperatures to flower. The plant prefers rich, consistently moist but well-drained soil and at least 6 hours of full sun a day. The more sun, the better the bloom. Easy to grow, hibiscus is fairly pest and disease free and deer resistant. Just give it lots of space, protect it from strong winds, and prune in late winter to produce a bushier plant. Hibiscus is not winter hardy; however, it makes a great house plant and can be grown in containers outdoors and moved indoors before the first fall frost. Slow acclimation is best when moving the container outdoors in spring or indoors in fall. Hibiscus makes a perfect specimen plant, but taller varieties can be mass planted to create privacy screens that are dense, lush, and truly spectacular.