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Perennial Hibiscus Provides Showstopping Appeal

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'Disco Belle'Photo by Robert E. Lyons

‘Disco Belle’
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Children play “hide and seek” behind it. People leave their cars in the middle of the road to get a closer look. And the first time you see the extremely large flower of the perennial hibiscus, your mouth will drop open and you’ll want to attend the party for which Mother Nature created this lovely beauty!

Hibiscus moscheutos, commonly called perennial hibiscus, rose mallow or swamp rose, is hardy in zones 5 to 9. Though the plant thrives in full sun to partial shade and moist soil that is high in organic matter, it will tolerate wetlands and creek edges and is useful in poorly drained areas. Depending upon the variety, it can grow to a height of 18 inches to 8 feet and grows in shrub form.

The most amazing part of the perennial hibiscus is its saucer-shaped flowers. A single flower can be 6- to 12-inches wide in shades of red, white, pink or bicolor from summer to frost. Little effort with this plant usually reaps big rewards. It grows quickly and is easy to start from seed or to propagate by division Japanses beetles are its major pest problem.

'H. moscheutos'Photo by Robert E. Lyons

‘H. moscheutos’
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Use hibiscus as a single plant or massed around a water garden or lake. But be warned, if you plant it in your front yard this showstopper compels people to get a closer look at its remarkable flowers! Some common cultivars are ‘Disco Bell Mix’ (white, pink, red flowers), ‘Southern Belle’ (red, pink, white flowers), ‘Sweet Caroline’ (pink flowers with darker center), ‘Anne Arundel’ (pink flowers), ‘Blue River II’ (white flowers), ‘Lady Baltimore’ (pink flowers with red centers) and ‘Lord Baltimore’ (red flowers).

This North American native hibiscus also works wonders in a perennial border. At the JC Raulston Arboretum, these magnificent specimens punctuate the 300-foot-long border with bold beauty in midsummer. Check out ‘Plum Crazy’, with its somewhat dusty rose flowers, and ‘Kopper King’, which has most unusual and complementary purple foliage. Learn more at jcra.ncsu.edu.

Emily Revels