Hibiscus can bring a vacation to your gardenEvery time I vacation in Florida I revel in the world of tropical plants and flowers, wishing I could bring them all home with me to plant in the yard when the weather becomes warm enough.
By: JOHN ZVIROVSKI, Sun Garden Editor , The Jamestown Sun
Every time I vacation in Florida I revel in the world of tropical plants and flowers, wishing I could bring them all home with me to plant in the yard when the weather becomes warm enough.
It isn’t that I want to have a Florida landscape in North Dakota, but I sure do enjoy the exotic nature of some of the plant types.
One of the most common blooming p l a n t s that I see in the south is that of the hibiscus.
T he hibiscus is a flower well known by anyone in the gardening realm. It is even recognizable to many who do not dabble in the nature of gardening.
The flower itself always reminds us of a tropical setting and a place where we can drift away and pretend we’re on a relaxing island somewhere.
The nice element about this plant is that we can actually grow it in our area gardens during the summer and take it indoors as a houseplant during the colder periods for all year enjoyment. They come in wonderful colors such as white, red, pink, orange, purple and yellow. They also come in many twotoned shades and some even change slightly in color as they age throughout the day.
The hibiscus flower ranges in size from about 1 inch across in some varieties to nearly 12 inches in others. There is quite a range in sizes and varieties. Some have small leaves and some are large.
Some leaves have deep green coloring where others will have a lime color. Others will even come in a variety of variegated shades that include a mix of green, red, pink and white shades. All have wonderful landscape amenities regardless of the plant type you end up choosing.
If you would like to grow a hibiscus in your garden this year, start shopping around now for a good selection in which to choose.
It’s best to condition the plant to the outdoors when the temperatures rise above 55 degrees. Take them in at night when the temperatures drop below this level and once the evenings have really warmed up, typically at the end of May, you can plant them in the garden. They will like an area that receives a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day and they enjoy a soil high in organic matter that is slightly acidic. Water them in well once planted and from that point forward, watch them grow.
Never allow the plant to become wilted as this will cause it to lose many leaves.
With direct sunlight, your plant will bloom the entire season. During the heat of summer, most hibiscus flowers will only last one day, on cool days, sometimes they will last two.
If you want to grow them in containers, keep their moisture levels checked at all times as containers can tend to dry out much quicker. Make sure your soil medium is light and fertile, as hibiscus do not like heavy soils in which their roots cannot breath. A periodic fertilizing solution will assist in its vigor while it is in the growing stages.
If you want to save your hibiscus indoors when the autumn season arrives, make sure you dig up your plant from the garden into a pot and spray them for three weeks with an insecticide to rid the plant of any insects and eggs before moving indoors. A systemic granule added to the soil is also very effective as a time release option.
Indoors your plant will require high light conditions, but will enter a dormancy period in which it will slow down or stop its growth and often times quit blooming. When it is in this stage, you will want to keep your plant on the drier side for best results. Overwatering a hibiscus in the winter can be detrimental in its ultimate survival.
There are hardy hibiscus for the north, but they tend to be in zone 4 to 5, so can be borderline in our region. Many have tried planting these types and many have had good success rates. As a fellow gardener, I would suggest to give it a try if you are really interested in them. The hardy ones in our region typically are the ones that will produce the flowers which can reach up to 1 foot in diameter. The two most common varieties are the Disco Belle and Southern Belle Hibiscus.
In the springtime, you must be patient to see this plant come up. In many cases, it needs warm soils in order to activate growth. I have seen it come up as early as the second week in June to as late as the Fourth of July. Once it comes up, it will grow rapidly up to 4 to 5 feet tall in some cases. Some may require staking in windy areas and their flowers commence at the growing tips. When in bloom, you will find these to be well worth the effort and patience needed for this plant. In the winter, a 1-foot-thick mulch over the top is recommended for protection from the cold.
Hibiscus flowers are also edible and have been one of those flowers that have been used as garnishes on salads, cakes and desserts for live decoration. It is also a very popular item for making tea. Fresh flower petals are collected to steep in water until they have been bleached of their color. Once done, add a little honey and enjoy its sweet tangy flavors. High in vitamin C, it is also a mild diuretic and an aid in assisting those with kidney problems. It has also been found to lower blood pressure in those whose levels are slightly higher than the normal range. As with any health situation, if you can control something naturally, it is much more beneficial to your system than consuming another medication.
Hibiscus are more than just a beautiful flower for your deck or garden. They are a wonderful way to add a little of the tropics to your indoor home or outdoor environment. One of these growing in your garden will always get someone to stop and notice their great flowers along their evening walk. It might even strike up a fun conversation about other plantings in your yard.
Add the hibiscus into your plant palette this year and find out how easy they are to grow. If the season of blooms pulls you in, you may be one of many who take them in for a winter season of additional enjoyment. I may not be able to stay in Florida, but I can sure take a little of it back with me in the form of plant materials!