Advertisement

Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2007

Surprise: The hibiscus can thrive up north, too

September 27, 2007

Advertisement

Rose mallow, one of the hardiest of hibiscuses, can be grown outdoors almost anywhere.

Rose mallow, one of the hardiest of hibiscuses, can be grown outdoors almost anywhere.

You don't have to speak with a southern drawl or play the Hawaiian ukulele to grow hibiscus. Some kind of hibiscus can be grown outdoors almost everywhere.

Strangely enough, the farther north you go, the more flamboyant are the hibiscuses that can be grown.

Rose mallow is one of the hardiest. Each of its flowers is the size of a dinner plate, with white, pink or crimson petals and a protruding proboscis of reproductive organs dusted yellow with pollen. Looking something like a hollyhock, a close relative, that has been pumped up with steroids, rose mallow's flowers are stunning.

Only slightly more subdued, and inhabiting swampy areas from Canada down to Florida, is smooth marsh mallow. With flowers 4 to 6 inches across, it's still hardly low-key. The flowers are pink or white, and, like its cousin, smooth marsh mallow reaches about 6 feet in height.

In case you wondered: Yes, marsh mallow was the original "marshmallow," a confection made by boiling marsh mallow's roots in sugar syrup.

Traveling through marshes and ditches of the southeastern U.S., we might come upon scarlet hibiscus. The 6-inch-wide flowers in white, pink, purple or, of course, scarlet sit perched on stalks 10 feet high. With mulch, this hibiscus can be grown in regions with colder winters because only the roots have to survive winter. The tops die to the ground each fall, then spring warmth coaxes growth of new stems, and then flowers.

Of course, some hibiscuses can hardly tolerate any cold. One is Hawaiian hibiscus, a large shrub or medium-sized tree. The flowers are usually scarlet, sometimes yellow, orange or white. They are a mere 2 to 3 inches across so Hawaiian hibiscus may not be show stoppers from the road. Hawaiian hibiscus is still a real beauty, though, when it's covered with masses of blossoms set off against dark green leaves so glossy they seem to have been buffed with wax.

You can, in fact, grow Hawaiian hibiscus even if you live where winters are cold. Just plant it in a pot and bring the pot indoors for the winter. The plant can use a rest at this season, so keep it cool and on the dry side. Come spring, move Hawaiian hibiscus outside, and give it the same conditions enjoyed by other hibiscuses: abundant water and plenty of sunshine.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.