Monday, June 18, 2007

Hibiscus in Nassau County, New York

I know I saw beautiful hibiscus decorative bushes in Nassau county last year. They were a pretty color, perhaps coral. I have been told the only hibiscus bush that would grow in our climate is the hardy hibiscus. I have looked on line under that topic and have not found the tropical looking - but cold weather hibiscus I so desperately want. Can you help me?

There are essentially three different kinds of hibiscus that we commonly find here in the New York. One is a tropical shrub, one is a perennial, and one is a woody shrub. For future reference, when searching for plants or plant information, try and familiarize yourself with the botanical name of the plant. Knowing the scientific genus and/or species of a plant makes it much easier to find credible information, whether it be in a book or on the internet.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is a tropical shrub that is commonly sold as an annual in our area. They may be sold in shrub form or pruned up on a standard, a single trunk, to look like a small tree. They do have that large hibiscus flower and there can be lots of color variation, from white to yellow to red and every color in between. They are popular because with enough sun and water they can continue to bloom all summer long. They are not winter hardy, however, so come fall they will die unless you choose to move them inside to over-winter them indoors.

Hibiscus moscheutos, commonly called swamp rose mallow, is the plant most people call “hardy hibiscus”. It is a native perennial plant and does come back every year. This plant puts up skinny five or six feet tall stems with very large hibiscus flowers on top. Because it is a perennial, the duration of bloom is less than that of the tropical species, and they usually flower in late July or August. These plants thrive in full sun and very wet conditions, such as a low wetland or bog. Hibiscus moscheutos has very large flowers that are usually red or pink, but again, growers are introducing more color variation into the trade.

Lastly, there is Hibiscus syriacus, or rose-of-sharon. This is a woody shrub that is hardy to our climate and loves full sun as well. It is a very aggressive growing shrub that puts up many branches with grey bark and smaller hibiscus shaped flowers (perhaps two to three inches in diameter). This shrub also blooms later in the summer, but in full sun they can flower quite prolifically. These shrubs grow quickly and can seed themselves pretty freely around your property.

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