Hibiscus galore in the garden

Our summer flower garden is full of vibrant colors this year; the perennials are doing well, especially the daylilies, along with the annuals I have planted. The color, incidentally, is more concentrated in our back and side yards because of better growing conditions as compared to other areas of our property. The large kidney-shaped bed in our back yard has a wide variety of perennials, small flowering shrubs and, to fill the vacant spots, the seasonal annuals.

But, what really got this flower bed started was the perennial Lord Baltimore hibiscus I ordered from a mail-order nursery about 15 years ago. Back then, unusual plants often had to be obtained from such sources, as opposed to these days, when most garden centers carry a large selection of tropical plants. Though it’s not as productive now as before, the “Lord” still holds the court with its spectacular, brilliant red blooms that measure up to 8 inches or more across.

A bit more lady-like, but equally enchanting, is another perennial hibiscus, H.coccineus, which is now starting to put forth its eye-catching flowers. Since this one is visible from the street, quite often I have walkers stop by to ask its identity when the plant is in bloom. Opened flowers of both this one and the Lord Baltimore last only a day, but, if the plant is healthy, there is no dearth of flower buds waiting to open the next morning.

Unlike the annual hibiscuses we generally grow in containers during summer to add pizzazz to patios and decks, etc., the perennial hibiscuses are cold hardy here, becoming dormant during winter months. They grow in size every year and can thus be divided; H.coccineus has interesting seed pods that I like to leave on the plants for winter interest, although the dropped seeds produce plenty of volunteers the next spring.

Hibiscuses love sun, ample moisture and a rich, well-drained soil; when provided these cultural conditions, a gardener can be assured of being rewarded with gorgeous flowers in the garden all the way from summer to fall.

By the way, ever wondered how the edible okra ended up getting such bold, pretty flowers? Okra belongs to the same plant family as the ornamental hibiscuses, the family Malvaceae!

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