Connecticut Garden Journal: New England-Friendly Hibiscus

Aug 30, 2018

When I say hibiscus, most gardener's think of the shrubby plant we see outdoors in warmer climes like Florida, or ones we see at garden centers. This shrub is beautiful, but isn't hardy in our area. But another hibiscus is and it's showing off right now.

The perennial or hardy hibiscus is a show stopper. The plant grows 3- to 6- feet tall and produces whopping 8- to 12-inch diameter flowers until frost.

Unlike its tropical cousin, the perennial hibiscus is hardy to zone 4 so grows well around the state. Unlike its woody tropical cousins, it's an herbaceous perennial. Meaning it dies back to the ground in winter.

Be patient with hardy hibiscus. It sometimes takes a while to emerge in spring. Once it gets going though, it can put on a show seemingly overnight by late summer. Some varieties to grow include Lord Baltimore, the diminutive Luna Red, Rose or White, and Kopper King. I particularly like Kopper King because it has burgundy colored leaves making the plant attractive even when not in bloom.

Plant perennial hibiscus in full or part sun. They’re pretty forgiving plants, but do need well-drained soil. Amend the soil with compost annually. For first-year plants, consider mulching the roots in late fall with straw or bark mulch to protect them in winter. Give them room to grow, planted in a hedgerow or perennial flower border.

I’ve noticed our hardy hibiscus likes to self-sow in the garden. After a few years, I see new plants popping up among the perennials. It's nice to have new plants, but regardless of the original plant's flower color, I've noticed the new seedlings all flower red.

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