ShadyGardens Blog

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.

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