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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Hibiscus

By Staff | Dec 14, 2011

First impression: Bright, exotic five petal flowers in unimaginable color combinations. Filaments are colorful and long. I am overwhelmed by the many variations of petal shapes, wavy, ruffled, spiraled, twisted, to name a few. The trunks are smooth grey bark with dark green ovate leaves, but who ever notices them? The shrub has a natural shape and is loaded with flowers. All this beauty and no fragrance! We have 250 plus Hibiscus Hybrids in kaleidoscope colors and kooky names blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Hibiscus includes around 300+ species of trees, shrubs, and herbs from tropical America. Hibiscus, rosa-sinensis is the mother of all our Hibiscus species we know today. Hibiscus can be a challenge to grow, but Hybrids are even more complex and demanding. Hibiscus lovers and growers cross pollinate, graft and then choose a few beauties from hundreds of babies. Ruffles, curly, flat, giant, tiny, double, single, triple are just a few morphs the hybrid flower petals have made. Flower colors range the entire spectrum of the rainbow. Guess what?-some of the hybrids even have different colored filaments! Once you have ogled the unique flower take a look at the name. Names are humorous, fanciful and descriptive. The hybrids are great in a container, as a specimen plant, or grouped lining a walkway. I have learned most of what I know from a local expert, Dr. Hy Lans. He is the advisor and caretaker of our extensive hybrid collection. Hybrids need a sunny area that receives at least 6 hours a sunlight. Place in a well drained soil that is amended with a small amount of organic material and peat moss. Mulch and regular irrigation is needed. Sometimes you will notice lots of yellow leaves this happens and should not alarm you. You never need to overwater, just keep them on a regular water cycle. Fertilize 3 times a year with a coated slow release fertilizer. Be prepared to spend time with them, they are the Divas of my garden. This means inspecting leaves and cleaning up spent flower buds on a weekly basis. Pests when unchecked can really destroy your plants. When I observe a nibbling insect, I bring out a systemic pesticide product that is applied to the roots of the plant. This is absorbed by the plant and only kills the chewing insect and no other beneficial insects. Hey, you can also enjoy gorgeous Hybrid blooms at our Sanibel Library, generously brought in by another local expert, Bill Wollschlager.

Pros: Drought tolerant – Does well in sandy soil after established – Likes full sun – Easy to maintain/prune Flowers are unique and fanciful – Somewhat salt tolerant Is great for oooh’s and ahhs Great for photographs – Everyone needs at least one.

Cons: Daily clean up when shedding flowers – Non Native status Can be scraggly looking when not blooming – slow grower Cut flowers last one day Needs weekly attention Neighbors will be stealing these blooms-count your flowers!.

Conclusion: Hybrids are not only on the roads but planted lovingly in our garden. These second look blooms usually last for one day, so you wouldn’t want to miss the one that might become your next favorite. My favorite changes on a daily basis!

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!