If it’s flower power you’re after then hibiscus is for you. Here are some of the best
Bold varieties that make an impact
Hibiscus belong to the Malvaceae or mallow family, which boasts more than 2 000 species, including cocoa, cotton and okra – even baobabs belong to this family. You’ll find hibiscus species all over the world – from temperate regions to the tropics. A number of these have been carefully bred to highlight their best characteristic – their gorgeous blooms.
SINENSIS (CHINESE ROSE OR HAWAIIAN HIBISCUS)
Native to South-East Asia and growing up to 3m high, this is the species that springs to mind when thinking of hibiscus. Their huge single or double blooms come in an array of colours including deep pink, vibrant red, subtle yellow and silvery white, while some varieties like ‘Snow Queen’ have variegated foliage. At their best in subtropical regions, they’ll survive in colder areas as long as they’re protected from frost. Plant them in a sunny
position, and for best results, make sure they are fed and watered regularly. If you have a warm, sunny patio, you can grow hibiscus in large pots. They prefer rich, well-composted soil that drains well. The f lowers of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis are edible and are often used in salads or made into a tea.
(ROSE OF SHARON)
If you live in the frostier parts of South Africa, you can still grow hibiscus as H. syriacus shrugs off the most severe winters. While its blooms may be smaller than those of H. rosa-sinensis cultivars, they are far more profuse. A rather slow-growing, deciduous shrub, it produces its luxuriant, large hollyhocklike blooms through summer and into autumn. While it prefers moist, well-drained, compost-enriched soil, it’s surprisingly adaptable to various soil types, pH levels, soil compaction, drought, heavy pruning and even pollution. In addition, it grows happily in most climatic regions as it’s able to cope with heat and humidity. Syriacus make splendid subjects in a mixed border and shrubbery.
MOSCHEUTOS (SWAMP ROSE MALLOW)
Hybridisers have been hard at work on this hardy species. One of the successes is the Luna series. These dwarf cultivars thrive in full sun and rich, well-draining soil and prefer it moist but not soggy. While the plants are relatively compact (just under a metre tall and about half a metre wide), the flowers average a whopping 20cm across. A well-branched, shrubby habit and f loriferous nature make them ideal for containers and mixed borders. Plant in a sunny area in compost-enriched soil and keep them well-watered and fed throughout the warm months. Don’t be concerned if they die back in winter, they’ll bounce back once summer returns.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensisgrandiflora ‘Apollo’
H. syriacus ‘Hamabo’
H. rosa-sinensis ‘Snow Queen’
H. rosa-sinensis ‘The Path’
H. moscheutos Luna ‘Light Rose’