04 August 2013

Five Star Hibiscus - You Can Grow That!

Some plants just bring so much joy when they flower that they are irresistible! Five Star Hibiscus is one of those.

The seeds are large and easy to start. The plants are perennial and given water and protection from late afternoon blazing sun, they are easy to keep growing for years and years.

5 Star Hibiscus among the peaches
There is a white version but the red ones just shout out from their place in the afternoon shade under our native peach trees.

In their native Texas, they are called Texas Five Star Hibiscus or Texas Star, Star of Texas and in Mexico they are called Mexican Hibiscus and in the Deep South they are called Swamp Hibiscus.


In addition to those, one of the more confusing names is Star Mallow. There are so many other mallows that a person could be confused and end up with one that crawls the ground instead of shooting up 6 feet.


The Latin name resolves the question though. Just look for seeds or plants of Hibiscus coccineus.


The seeds take a year or two to produce giant plants. I started ours in the garden shed late fall and kept them growing under lights over the winter. They bloomed the following summer and have come back for six years now.

 
Five Star Hibiscus can also be propagated from root divisions and cuttings. I've never divided ours but I had to move them a few times to find just the right spot for them to thrive.

They are cold hardy to zone 7 and provide nectar for our flying friends such as butterflies, from June through October. On the GardenWeb site, gardeners in zones 5 and 6 say they are perennial there, too.


Here in NE OK they die back to the ground each winter and return from the root in the spring, each plant spreading a tiny bit each year.


At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, they are called “one of our country's loveliest native flowers”.
One Texas gardener was reported to the police for growing marijuana because her neighbor falsely identified the palmate leaves of her Hibiscus as that other plant, Cannabis sativa. Luckily we have three acres and no nosey neighbors!
North Creek Nurseries calls them Swamp Mallow and sells 50 plants for $55. The seeds are available from several EBay vendors who harvested the seeds from their own plants. These are best because they are fresher and more likely to germinate.

Plant the seeds while the weather is still warm, covering them with 1/4th inch of compost or good soil.  Keep the seed tray in bright light and maintain moist but not wet soil. Seedlings that come up this fall will be one-gallon size by spring with warmth and light over the winter.




2 comments:

Online Nursery said...

My mother has a green thumb and she can grow anything but a hibiscus! 5 ears ago my brother in law passed away and she got his hibiscus from the funeral. Talk about gorgeous, the Lord just blessed her with this plant

Martha Stoodley said...

Lovely story, and I bet she treasures that plant to this day.