ShadyGardens Blog

June 29, 2012

Texas Star Swamp Mallow: Native Hibiscus

Filed under: gardens, hardy, hibiscus, mallow, native, nursery, perennial, plant, Shady, southeast, star, Swamp, Texas — shadygardens @ 9:08 pm
Hibiscus coccineus, Texas Star, Swamp Mallow
Shady Gardens Nursery
One of the showiest summer bloomers in our garden this time of year is the Texas Star Hibiscus. A native plant of the Southeastern United States, Hibiscus coccineus is also known as Swamp Hibiscus, probably due to its love for moist soil.


Hibiscus coccineus is very easy to grow. It grows well near a pond or stream, and really enjoys a soggy spot. We have no pond, stream, or soggy spot in our garden–our Hibiscus is located in ordinary garden soil (that means dry hard clay in Georgia language). Admittedly, I do water it on occasion, but it grows bushier each year–we’ve had it several years now.


You can grow Hibiscus coccineus if you live anywhere in the south and as far north as USDA Zone 6!




Even before blooms begin in summer, Texas Star is a spectacular presence in the garden. Palmate leaves resemble Japanese Maple foliage and even have a reddish tinge.

Blooms are showy red star-shaped flowers appearing throughout summer and into Fall. The flowers can be up to 6 inches across!
Hibiscus coccineus dies down to the ground in winter but re-emerges in spring. By mid-summer this hibiscus will be 6-8 feet tall and look more like a shrub than an herbaceous perennial.
Texas Star Hibiscus does need full sun to bloom well, and you’ll need to water it weekly when rainfall is absent. Also a regular application of compost or composted manure will keep it growing well for you.

Source for Texas Star Hibiscus: Shady Gardens Nursery.

September 4, 2010

Perennial Plant of the Year: Amsonia Hubrichtii, Blue Star

Filed under: Amsonia, blue star, drought tolerant, fall, hubrictii, of the year, perennial, plant — shadygardens @ 3:51 pm
The Perennial Plant Association has already chosen the 2010 Perennial Plant of the year. Amsonia hubrichtii, often known as Blue Star, is native to the state of Arkansas, but grows well in most parts of the country.
Amsonia Hubrictii is at its best in Fall
Amsonia hubrichtii has very fine-textured foliage which makes it ideal for pairing with ornamental grasses.  
Clusters of blue flowers in May are lovely, but to me this plant comes alive in fall. I’m crazy about the bright golden color that develops with the onset of cooler weather. 
The fact that this plant grows well in both full sun or part shade makes it an easy choice for just about every garden. Like most native plants, Amsonia is drought tolerant once established. 
Probably another reason this perennial is so favored is its lack of problems with insects or disease. I have not noticed the deer munching on it either.

As you can see in the above photo, when massed in groups of 5 or more, Amsonia hubrichtii makes quite a show.

July 5, 2010

Hibiscus: Choose Native for an Easy, Beautiful, Low Maintenance Garden

Filed under: coccineus, hardy, hibiscus, mallow, moscheutos, native, perennial, star, Swamp, Texas — shadygardens @ 2:01 pm
Every summer many, many people purchase the Tropical Hibiscus to place on their patio, porch, or around their pool. While it is true that the Tropical Hibiscus is beautiful and really does lend a tropical look to the garden, it will die to the ground with the first frost unless you live in the sub-tropical states. And if you’ve ever tried overwintering one indoors, you know how difficult that can be!
Instead, consider our American Native Hibiscus varieties. There are several, and in my opinion they are much more beautiful than the Tropical Hibiscus. Our native hibiscus is an herbaceous perennial plant that grows to shrub size each summer.
Hibiscus coccineus has bright red star-shaped blooms all summer on tall stems. This native hibiscus is known by many common names, among which are Texas Star Hibiscus, Swamp Hibiscus, and Swamp Mallow. The Swamp Hibiscus loves consistently moist soil but grows well in my garden with only a weekly watering. Hibiscus coccineus is beautiful even when not in bloom, having reddish-tinged green leaves shaped like maple leaves. Some visitors have claimed it looks like marijuana, but I can’t say for sure, since I’ve never seen a marijuana plant. Perhaps they’re telling on themselves! What do you think?
Hibiscus coccineus at Shady Gardens Nursery

‘Very spectacular’ is the best description for Hibiscus moscheutos or Swamp Mallow. Blooms are the size of a dinnerplate! See for yourself:
Hibiscus moscheutos growing alongside Rudbeckia Goldsturm

Hybridizers have developed many types and colors, but all are beautiful and any one would be a show piece in your garden.
The native hibiscus is so easy to grow that it would be a shame not to have one in your garden. Hibiscus coccineus is hardy as cold as USDA Zone 6 and Hibiscus moscheutos is happy in even colder temperatures found in USDA Zone 4! Wow! They are deciduous plants but will return in May each year with no special care.
For more information on availability of the hardy native hibiscus, contact us anytime at Shady Gardens Nursery.

March 5, 2010

Baptisia Australis False Blue Indigo: 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year

Filed under: australis, Baptisia, Blue, false, indigo, native, of the year, perennial, plant — shadygardens @ 3:53 pm
Baptisia Australis, otherwise known as False Blue Indigo, has been named Perennial Plant of the Year for 2010. This award is much deserved. Baptisia is one of the easiest plants of all to grow, and it’s a native!
The blue-gray foliage of Baptisia Australis is lovely all season, but this plant has many wonderful features. Leaves are trifoliate, reminding me of clover. The plant is upright, for the most part, and doesn’t require staking unless it’s getting too much shade. Since Baptisia australis grows up to four feet tall, plant it behind shorter perennials.
Blue violet pea-like blooms stand well above the foliage, providing a tall backdrop for lower growing plants. The bloom stems can be up to 12 inches tall, so Baptisia is an excellent cut flower. Blooms last up to a month on the plant, but are also long-lasting in a vase where they can be enjoyed up close. 
Once blooms are spent, do not deadhead this plant or you’ll miss the next show. By late summer, blooms have given way to showy black pods resembling peas. The black pods hanging on strong stems are lovely and make attractive additions to floral arrangements and wreaths for late summer. In addition, these pods are full of viable seeds which you can use to make more of these lovely plants for your garden and for your friends.

This plant grows best with full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, Baptisia is very drought tolerant.

This Perennial Plant of the Year can be grown just about anywhere with its broad range of growing zones, since it’s hardy anywhere in USDA Zones 3-9. 

For more on this plant, visit Shady Gardens Nursery.

July 18, 2009

Four Oclock: Fragrant Blooms for the Evening Garden

If you like fragrant plants, the old-fashioned Four Oclock will be one of your favorites. Small pink blooms scent the garden with their sweet perfume every evening during summer. Mirabilis jalapa is a shrub-like multibranched perennial plant that emerges each spring from a large carrot-shaped tuber. The common name Four Oclock comes from its fascinating habit of opening its blooms around 4 oclock in the afternoon. That alone is enough to intrigue me, since I have a natural interest in plants with unusual traits. Although it’s called Four Oclock, in our garden Mirabilis actually opens her blooms around 5:30 pm, perfuming the air right about the time it begins to cool off enough to sit in the shade on the patio.

Four Oclock is very easy to grow. Easy to please, four oclock can be grown in sun or shade. Our plants get morning sun and afternoon shade, but four oclock grows equally well in full shade with a reasonable amount of water. She’s not a water hog, but good soil with regular water will keep the plant looking healthy and green with plenty of those fragrant blooms. Just so you’ll know, plants in our shade garden get very little water, yet still bloom and multiply with profusion. Plants in the sun that receive occasional water perform just about as well as those in dry shade. The few Four Oclocks we have in dry sun are just surviving.

I can’t really describe the fragrance–it’s just a sweet, pleasant scent that invites me to relax outdoors. You might not notice the scent until your plant gets large with many blooms. And if you’re never outdoors in the evening, well…you’ll just miss out entirely.

Another important feature of the fragrant Four Oclock is that hummingbirds just adore it! The hot pink blooms are tubular and full of nectar for both butterflies and hummingbirds. You’ll further enjoy sitting on the patio observing the tiny creatures flitting about around the plants.

Four Oclock dies to the ground with the onset of winter in colder zones, but re-emerges again in late spring. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-11, mirabilis can be grown anywhere in the southern half of the United States.

I must tell you also that Four Oclock is definitely a reseeder. Toward the end of summer you’ll notice small black cannonballs on the plants and the ground beneath. Those are very viable seeds. If you’ve had no luck growing Four Oclock from seed, that’s because these very hard seeds need a cold treatment to break them. It’s best to plant them in fall, but most gardeners don’t think about it then and seeds often are not available in the big box stores at that time of year. You’ll have nearly instant gratification if you go ahead and purchase a tuber instead. Heavy black carrot-shaped tubers will send up a stem very quickly after planting in warm summer soil. Four Oclock tubers are available for summer shipping from Shady Gardens Nursery.

August 9, 2008

Our Native Hibiscus is easier to grow than Tropical Hibiscus!

Filed under: coccineus, hardy, hibiscus, mallow, moscheutos, native, perennial, rose mallow, Swamp mallow, Texas star — shadygardens @ 2:03 pm

Every summer many, many people purchase the Tropical Hibiscus to place on their patio, porch, or around their pool. While it is true that the Tropical Hibiscus is beautiful and really does lend a tropical look to the garden, it will die to the ground with the first frost unless you live in the sub-tropical states. And if you’ve ever tried overwintering one indoors, you know how difficult that can be!

Instead, consider our American Native Hibiscus varieties. There are several, and in my opinion they are much more beautiful than the Tropical Hibiscus. Our native hibiscus is an herbaceous perennial plant that grows to shrub size each summer.

Hibiscus coccineus has bright red star-shaped blooms all summer on tall stems. This native hibiscus is known by many common names, among which are Texas Star Hibiscus, Swamp Hibiscus, and Swamp Mallow. The Swamp Hibiscus loves consistently moist soil but grows well in my garden with only weekly waterings. Hibiscus coccineus is beautiful even when not in bloom, having reddish-tinged green leaves shaped like maple leaves. (Some visitors have claimed it looks like marijuana, but I can’t say for sure, since I’ve never seen a marijuana plant. Perhaps they’re telling on themselves!)

‘Very spectacular’ is the best description for Hibiscus moscheutos or Swamp Mallow. Blooms are the size of a dinnerplate! (See the photo above, one of the plants in our garden!) Hybridizers have developed many types and colors, but all are beautiful and any one would be a show piece in your garden.

The native hibiscus is so easy to grow that it would be a shame not to have some. H. coccineus is hardy as cold as USDA Zone 6 and H. moscheutos is happy as cold as USDA Zone 4! Wow! They are deciduous plants but will return in May each year with no special care.

For more information on availability of the hardy native hibiscus, contact us anytime at http://shadygardens.biz/

June 30, 2008

Honeysuckle & Plumleaf Azalea: Blooms In Late Summer

By the end of summer, many plants have grown tired of providing blooms for our garden. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find plants that will fill in this difficult time with flowers. A diligent gardener can find quite a few plants that bloom in late summer.

You’re probably familiar with Black-eyed Susan and Butterfly Bushes, providing the garden with blossoms this time of year no matter how hot it gets, attracting butterflies by the hundreds. You’ve seen Japanese Honeysuckle on the side of the road, or perhaps you’re even plagued with its invasive qualities in your own garden.

But have you seen our native Red Trumpet Honeysuckle? Lonicera sempervirens is a non-invasive evergreen vine that blooms almost year round, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and many other beneficial insects. Grow it as a groundcover, let it climb an arbor or trellis, or train it to cover a fence. You’ll be rewarded with blooms from spring to fall, and I’ve even seen blooms on mine in December! It will grow in sun or shade, but flowers more profusely in full sun.

For the shade, try Lobelia cardinalis, our native red Cardinal Flower, loved by hummingbirds. This perennial prefers moist soil, but can be grown in regular garden soil with supplemental water.

If you have a woodland garden, try the beautiful Plumleaf Azalea, an American native azalea made famous by Callaway Gardens. Rhododendron prunifolium is a rare deciduous azalea with bright red blooms in late July and August. Plumleaf Azalea prefers a cool shady spot with regular water.

Perennial hibiscus continues to offer up showy blooms in several colors right up until the onset of cold weather. There are many hybrid forms of our native perennial hibiscus, but my favorite is Hibiscus coccineus, often referred to as Swamp Hibiscus or Texas Star Hibiscus. It has attractive foliage in addition to the beautiful flowers. When I look at the blooms, it’s hard for me to believe that instead of coming from Hawaii, this plant is a native of the Southeast!

And for a little later on in the season, consider adding Swamp Sunflower, a good companion for perennial hibiscus, since they both share a love for sun and water. Helianthus blooms in September with large, bright yellow flowers on tall stems up to 10 feet tall! I hope you’ll try some of my suggestions in your late summer garden as you strive to make your garden more beautiful year round.
For more information on any plants mentioned here, contact us at
Shady Gardens Nursery.

January 7, 2008

Italian Arum for the Winter Shade Garden

An unusual perennial I enjoy seeing in the winter garden is Italian Arum. Just as the Hostas disappear for the winter, the beautiful deep green leaves of Arum Italicum emerge. The variegated leaves are arrow-shaped and very unusual, sometimes growing quite large—up to 12 inches long on mature plants. Italian Arum is a tuberous perennial, which is probably why it is so hardy and tolerant of the drought so common in Georgia. The leaves are variegated green and white and last until May. Mature plants produce an Arum-type spathe in spring followed by bright red berries that remain on the stalk even after the leaves have disappeared. Italian Arum forms a nice clump of leaves about a foot tall, and is a great companion plant for any perennial that dies down for the winter. It grows well with hosta, ferns, and hellebores. As the hosta leaves emerge, Italian Arum will go to sleep for the summer, storing energy for an even better show the next fall. An added bonus is that deer will not touch Arum Italicum! To purchase this plant, please visit www.shadygardens.biz. I hope you’ll enjoy the warm spells we have in between the cold snaps by getting outside, and remember to pray for the regular rain showers to continue!

December 30, 2007

Rohdea: Beautiful Year Round in Dry Shade!

Rohdea Japonica, also known as Japanese Sacred Lily, is a low-growing evergreen plant that is a great substitute for Hosta. Rohdea actually thrives in dry shade gardens, and is not bothered by deer. A native of the Orient, Rohdea should be more widely planted here. Its low-maintenance and tolerance for poor, dry soil make it an easy plant to grow, even for busy gardeners. The 1 foot long deep green leaves form an upright vase-shaped clump that will cover a 2 foot area in several years. In late fall the insignificant flower stalks will develop into a 6-inch stalk of bright red berries at the base of the plant–just in time for Christmas! The berries are eaten by birds and squirrels which help to disperse the seed for more plants in the garden. Usually difficult to find in the United States, Rohdea is highly prized in Japan, with some fancy-leaved varieties often selling for thousands of dollars. If you can find it, Rohdea is definitely worth planting in the garden. Rohdea Japonica needs shade and will even grow in very deep shade with little water. This drought tolerant plant is perfect for a xeriscape garden in shade. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-10.

December 29, 2007

Hellebores: Winter Blooms in Dry Shade Gardens

Since we have many days of nice warm weather here during the winter, I like to find plants that will bloom in winter. Hellebores are evergreen perennial plants that bloom after Christmas in a rainbow of colors in shades of magenta, rose, mauve, and cream. Some blooms are even speckled. Often called Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, Hellebores aren’t really roses at all, but are in the buttercup family. Hellebore is a very low-maintenance plant that thrives in dry shade—that’s right, dry shade! When not blooming, Hellebores have interesting, shiny, dark green foliage with leaves often serrated or even palmate. It is a long-lived perennial offering years of beauty in the shade garden. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-8, hellebores require no special care. They spread with time, forming clumps up to 2 feet across in just a few years. Amend the soil well with organic matter when planting, and you’ll be rewarded with many years of beauty. Hellebores are a great substitute for Hosta, but are even better. Hellebores are evergreen and the deer will not eat them! No matter what you decide to plant in your garden, get out there and enjoy it. And remember to thank God for the rain we’ve received!
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