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Hardy Hibiscus

Hardy Hibiscus

Hello, Hibiscus! You and your big tropical blooms are so worth the wait!

At Groovy Plants Ranch, we think these hardy hibiscuses are pretty remarkable perennials. They die to the ground each winter then emerge in mid-summer almost unnoticed among all the other spring perennials. They leap up surprisingly and burst into bloom with pinwheel-like blooms the size of dinner plates. 

When many customers hear “hibiscus,” they think of the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) from southeast Asia. You know, the ones grown as patio plants. Others think of Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), a shrub rose native to southern and central Asia. But, don’t confuse hardy hibiscus with their tropical cousins. Hardy hibiscuses are native to North America. In fact, today’s hybrids can be traced back to native species found growing naturally in wetlands and along riverbanks throughout the Midwest and East Coast, extending down even into Texas and Florida.

How Hardy?

Hardy hibiscuses thrive in zones 4-9 and survive temperatures to -30 degrees F. They prefer full sun (6+ hours) and will deliver more blooms in more sun. They also like plenty of room to grow. Mature hibiscus can grow an inch a day and reach 5-6’ wide and 4’ high. We’ve left for a week-long vacation on July 4th and returned to plants doubled in size. 

Easy Growing

Hardy hibiscuses are easy to maintain. Just be patient with them in spring. Don’t think they’re dead when they don’t pop up with other spring perennials. They just leaf out later in May. Since they are native to swampy areas, they do prefer moist soil and perform best with consistent watering, especially if newly planted. Also, remember to add an organic fertilizer or fresh layer of compost each year.

Hybridizing History

Believe it or not, hardy hibiscus have been around for centuries. Early botanist and plant explorer John Bartram discovered wild hibiscus in his explorations of Florida from 1765 to 1766 and even shipped seeds to collectors in Europe. Over the years, hybridizers have introduced larger flowers, stronger stems, a wider variety of bloom colors and patterns, more compact heights and colorful foliage from green to bronze and near-black.

Today’s Cultivars

At Groovy Plants Ranch, come check out these favorites:

  • Summer Carnival – We love the variegated foliage and giant magenta-pink flowers. The leaves have cream edges with a hint of blush.
  • Vintage Wine – This red-flowering variety features near-black buds that open to huge scarlet red flowers with a darker red eye. 
  • Blackberry Merlot – The deep velvety red flowers look so rich atop the deep green leaves of this standout hibiscus.
  • Midnight Marvel – This showstopper combines deep wine-purple, maple-like foliage and huge scarlet red blooms.
  • Summer in Paradise – This cherry-red beauty delivers a tropical feel with its hot-colored flowers and contrasting, olive-green-edged leaves.

Learn More

The National Garden Bureau has named 2021 the “Year of the Hardy Hibiscus” and features more information about hibiscus varieties, growing tips and design ideas.

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