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Hardy hibiscus adds tropical flair to garden

Hardy hibiscus adds tropical flair to garden

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Fast-growing and fabulous, hardy hibiscus explode with pinwheel-like flowers the size of dinner plates in late summer.

Not to be confused with their tropical cousins, these plants are actually capable of surviving temps as low as 30 degrees below zero, which means they can be grown in the Quad-City region, dying down to the ground in winter but coming up again in spring.

They are even a native perennial, according to the National Garden Bureau. They can be traced back to the species Hibiscus moscheutos, found growing naturally in wetlands and along riverbanks throughout the Midwest and East Coast, extending down even into Texas and Florida.

If you want to grow them, know two things: full sun is a must, and they are late to break dormancy in spring — depending on the year, hardy hibiscus may stay dormant through the end of May. They are not dead!, the garden bureau says.

And once they do start growing, it's off to the races, as they can grow an inch per day.

Try planting hardy hibiscus with tulips, daffodils, or other spring-blooming bulbs that will be out of bloom when hibiscus are ready to emerge. As an added bonus, the tired foliage of these spring-blooming bulbs will quickly be covered by the wide hibiscus habits.

Once your hibiscus gets going, be sure to leave them plenty of space to grow. Mature hibiscus can get five to six feet wide and grow quickly during the year. 

If they have too much shade, sturdy habits stretch and get floppy. Over shading will also lead to a decrease in bud count and diminished flowering performance. UV light (full sun) will also bring out the dark foliage colors.

They also perform best with consistent watering, particularly if they have been recently transplanted. If your hibiscus is losing its lowest leaves or aborting buds, you may need to up the water.

This water-tolerant characteristic makes them perfect for areas of the garden that periodically flood, or as a thriller in rain gardens.

Hardy hibiscus comes in shades of white, pink, red, and yellow, with different eye patterns and streaking through the petals. The leaves of the plants can also vary in color from green to bronze and near-black.

Some of the most popular series available include: Summer Spice,  Luna, Head Over Heels and Summerific.

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