The huge petals and prominent stamens of the hibiscus have been a favorite flower for artists to paint for years.
And most gardeners know that it only grows in areas where there are no frosts, let alone snow. So how can gardeners grow the hibiscus if they live in a frosty climate? They can do this by growing the deciduous hibiscus variety, hibiscus syriacus, otherwise known as Rose of Sharon or Althea. The deciduous variety will lose all its leaves in the fall and be safely bare when those first frosts hit. Then in spring or early summer, it will come back to life with those lovely light green shoots followed soon afterward by tight buds of white, pale pink or darker rose and purple.
The flowers of the deciduous hibiscus can be single, double or semi-double. Some look for all the world like a ball of firmly scrunched up colored tissue paper stuck to the branches. They are not quite as big and showy as the tropical hibiscus, but still well worth a place in the garden. The deciduous hibiscus will grow in zones 5-9 and prefers full sun. Where the climate is extremely hot, plant it where it will get a little shelter from the afternoon sun.
The plant is a tall shrub or small tree to about 10 feet high and may spread or be more upright. It is covered with beautiful flowers for much of the growing season. It is adaptable to many soil types though if the rich and friable loan can be provided, so much the better. It is happy with watering and fertilizing that is about the same as is done for the rest of the garden.
Simply take a piece no bigger than a make-up pencil just as the buds are beginning to swell and keep it in a damp potting mixture in dappled shade until it takes root. It may also sprout up from seeds that have fallen at the base of the shrub.
This beautiful shrub grows rapidly and so will take a rather heavier pruning in the spring to encourage bigger blooms.
The hardy perennial hibiscus is another variety of hibiscus that will grow to zone 4. It has flowers the size of a dinner plate in stunning colors of pinks, reds and white. Hibiscus moscheutos is also known as Rose Mallow or Swamp Mallow as it likes to grow near wet areas, but it doesn’t like to have wet and soggy roots during the winter.
This hibiscus will completely disappear in the winter but don’t think it is lost forever because it will shoot anew come spring. It likes full sun and it does not transplant well, so make sure the position chosen for it is one where it can stay permanently. It is a heavy feeder so needs a rich soil and moist conditions to grow well. Flowers will not last long, but as more open up all the time that does not matter.
Other perennial hibiscus varieties include one with slender scarlet petals, Hibiscus coccineus or Scarlet Hibiscus, and another beauty that has glorious ruffled pink blooms, Hibiscus mutabilis or Confederate Rose.