Hibiscus moscheutos 'Southern Belle Strain', or Hardy Hibiscus, is a deciduous, perennial shrub. The original Hibiscus is native to swampy areas from Massachusetts to Florida and westward to Alabama. The 'Southern Belle' strains have the largest flowers in the Malvaceae family. Plants will reach 4-6 feet (~1.2-2 m) tall and large clumps will be about the same width. Leaves are lanceolate to broadly ovate, unlobed to shallowly 3-5 lobed. Leaves are green above and white pubescent below, and will reach up to 8 inches (20 cm) long. The plants have a long blooming season, and come in a variety of colors from pink to white, red, rose and bicolor, pink and white. They are great plants to give your landscape that tropical look and are hardy in USDA zones 4-10.
Blooming: Plants will start blooming in June and will continue to bloom until fall. My favorite plant has blooms that are dark red and the flowers, like most Hibiscus, last only one day, but there is a profusion of flowers. Each individual bloom will measure up to 10 inches (25 cm) across. Very showy!
Culture: Hibiscus moscheutos 'Southern Belle Strain' needs full sun to partial shade with a moist soil. I don't grow these in the greenhouse, but I have grown them for years in my yard. Since the plants are native to swampy areas, here in Oklahoma they need to be watered deeply at least once a week. We fertilize our plants every 6-8 weeks with a balanced fertilizer. As plants start to grow in the spring, we stake each individual stem as the flowers tend to bend the stems from their weight. During the flowering season, we keep the plants deadheaded to promote more blooms. In late August, we let the blooms stay on the plants so we can collect the seed. By the time that winter approaches, the plants will have died back. At this time, we collect seed, cut stems back to the ground and mulch well.
Propagation: Hibiscus moscheutos 'Southern Belle Strain' are best propagated from seed, but large clumps can be divided. Seed will germinate in 14-21 day at 68-70°F (19-21°C).
Hibiscus moscheutos 'Southern Belle Strain' was featured as Plant of the Week July 25-31, 2008.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.