Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | GARDEN - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­ree@ede­nat­by­ron.com.au

Hi­bis­cus flow­ers are won­der­fully flam­boy­ant – they are real show-offs in the gar­den. There are more than 300 species of hi­bis­cus dis­trib­uted through­out the trop­i­cal and sub­trop­i­cal re­gions of the world, in­clud­ing about 40 Aus­tralian ones. When we think of hi­bis­cus, we usu­ally think of the ex­tra­or­di­nary flow­er­ing shrubs which have mostly been de­vel­oped by cross­ing some of the na­tive Hawai­ian species with the Chi­nese species hi­bis­cus rosa-sinen­sis. The mag­nif­i­cent large flow­ers, up to 30cm in di­am­e­ter, are sin­gle, dou­ble or semi-dou­ble and range in colour from pure white through lemon, yel­low, gold, or­ange, pink, red, and mauve, in­clud­ing some multi-coloured forms. There are hun­dreds of cul­ti­vars, in­clud­ing lots that have been bred in re­cent years to be quite com­pact, about 1m tall, mak­ing them per­fect for pots and low hedges. Hi­bis­cus shrubs are easy to grow and in­cred­i­bly showy. They will reach a height of 1-4 me­tres, and do well in full sun or a lit­tle shade. Hi­bis­cus are moder­ately salt tol­er­ant, but sen­si­tive to frost. They are drought hardy once es­tab­lished, and hate wet feet. They are heavy feed­ers, and are best fed lightly and of­ten, prefer­ably us­ing a fer­tiliser that con­tains plenty of potash as well as trace el­e­ments. A rose or citrus plant food is ideal. Pot­ted hi­bis­cus will ap­pre­ci­ate a premium pot­ting mix with slow-re­lease fer­tiliser, and a liq­uid feed ap­plied to the leaves and roots ev­ery few weeks while they are in flower. Prune in late win­ter by re­mov­ing about one third to keep the plant nice and bushy. Keep the plants well fed, watered and mulched to re­duce the in­ci­dence of pest at­tack. How­ever, even with the best of plant care, you may have to deal with some un­wel­come vis­i­tors. Aphids, scale and mealy bugs are eas­ily treated with or­ganic Eco-oil. Hi­bis­cus bee­tle can be treated with Eco-neem. You can also make hi­bis­cus bee­tle traps by plac­ing white plas­tic con­tain­ers of wa­ter with a lit­tle liq­uid soap or de­ter­gent near the plants.

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