Connecticut Garden Journal: Hardy Hibiscus

Jul 27, 2017

I love seeing those tropical hibiscus flowers in warm regions such as Florida. The flowers are big and colorful and plants like small shrubs. We obviously can't grow them outdoors in our New England climate, but we can grow a similar relative.

The perennial or hardy hibiscus has even bigger flowers than its tropical cousin and its hardy to zone 5. It grows from the roots in spring to eventually three to six feet tall, producing whopping eight to twelve inch diameter flowers until frost. Talk about a show stopper. 

Perennial hibiscus plants emerge late in spring, and grow quickly, blooming in mid-to-late summer in colors such as white, pink, red, and lavender. The plant dies back to the ground each winter.

Since perennial hibiscus is a tall grower, be strategic about where you plant it. Plant perennial hibiscus as a focal point in the back of a flower border or mass them along a wall or house for a dramatic effect.

Some good varieties to try include Lord Baltimore, the diminutive Luna Red, Rose, White, or Kopper King. I like Kopper King because the white flowers have a red center and the deeply cut leaves are tinged with bronze.

Plant perennial hibiscus in full or part sun on well-drained soil. They're pretty forgiving plants, but do like a good drink during dry summer weather. Amend the soil with compost annually. For first year plants, mulch the roots in late fall with bark to protect them in winter.

Perennial hibiscus like to self-sow. Weed or move them to a new location in your garden and enjoy.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about squash bugs. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.