Hibiscus / Rose Mallow

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A cold hardy hibiscus with tropical appeal

Rose mallow plants are herbaceous perennials in the Hibiscus genus that offer a spectacular display of summer color, which often continues into the fall. These showy, tropical-looking plants make a bold statement in the landscape with huge, bomb-shaped buds and massive dinner-plate-sized flowers that have vibrant and diverse colorations, most often in shades of white, pink, red, or burgundy. Nectar and pollen rich, the flamboyant flowers sustain butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds.

Numerous cultivars and hybrids are available, but Hibiscus moschuetos is the most common species used in home gardens. A shrubby, woody-based, native perennial, it typically grows to its full size—2 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide—every spring. Hibiscus hybrids are often complex crosses of H. coccineus (scarlet rose mallow), H. laevis (smooth rose mallow or halberd-leaved rose mallow), and H. moscheutos (hardy hibiscus, rose mallow). These hybrids offer a wide range of sizes, shapes, and foliage textures from which to choose. Rose mallows are great plants to add to a perennial border or a rain garden.

Remarkably easy to grow, rose mallows are cold hardy as well as heat and humidity tolerant. They grow best in sunny locations with rich, consistently moist but well-drained soil. The more sun and air circulation, the better the bloom. The plants should be pruned to the ground in late autumn; they will grow back in spring. Although they are one of the last perennials to emerge in spring, they are well worth the wait.

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