Perennial Hibiscus

Every year I’ve gotten an hibiscus to grow in a pot on the patio. I liked the fact that you could get plants with orange, yellow, red, pink or bicolor blooms and that some of them were double. The thing I didn’t like was the price – they were always at least $15.

For years I’ve been growing tropical hibiscus. The plants are nice and the 4″ blossoms give the garden a tropical feel. But, unless you’re willing to bring them inside and nurse them through the winter, they’re a one season plant.

But now I’m hooked on a different kind of hibiscus. Instead of the tropical plants, I’ve started to grow perennial hibiscus. These plants will survive the winter up to zone 5 (I’m in zone 6). After a killing frost, the plants die back to the ground until the next growing season.

Southern Belle Hibiscus

Perennial hibiscus is easily grown from seed. Last year I planted some seeds of the variety Southern Belle in the summer, overwintered the plants in a vacant spot in the vegetable garden and then transplanted them around the pool in the spring. The plants are growing well even though the soil isn’t the best. They can get up to 5′ tall but right now the plants are about 3′ in height. I expect them to get larger in the coming years.

As one who’s been growing tropical hibiscus, the blossoms of perennial hibiscus are just amazing. While there are only three colors in perennial hibiscus (red, pink and white) and all of the blooms are single, the 10″ dinner plate sized blooms are huge. They make such a bold statement.

Perennial Hibiscus Close-Up

Besides the Southern Belle plants, I also started some seeds of Disco Belle (a smaller perennial hibiscus variety… and who comes up with these names?!) inside this spring. I wasn’t too hopeful when I transplanted the seedlings into a large container in early May – the plants were about 3″ tall with 6-8 small leaves. But once they got established, the Disco Belle plants took off. They’re now 2″ tall and filled with 8″ blossoms. While these plants will come back next year, if you start the seeds early you can also grow perennial hibiscus as an annual, especially for container gardens.

The only thing I’ve learned to be aware of is that perennial hibiscus are one of the last perennials to emerge from dormancy in the spring. All of the other perennials will be growing before the hibiscus has even begun to send up shoots. As all the other perennials started to grow, I wondered if the Southern Belle plants in the garden had died. They hadn’t; all they needed was a little more time.

I’m hooked on perennial hibiscus as a garden and container plant. From a $3.50 packet of seeds you can easily grow a half-dozen plants that will be covered with huge flowers in the heat of summer. While I miss some of the colors of the tropical hibiscus plants, the perennial hibiscus provides a lot more bang for the buck!


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