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Hooray for Hardy Hibiscus

It is once again time for the hardy hibiscus to make their dazzling appearance during these long days of summer. Unlike their tropical cousins, they are easy to grow, hardy through zone 4 and come in an array of colors. The large flowers are sure to please and always seem to draw attention. Actually, like everything else this season, they are blooming about a week and a half ahead of normal due to the unusual early spring we experienced here (warm and dry in March). It seems everything got a head start this year.

Hardy hibiscus is notoriously slow to emerge in spring. Sometimes, the Fantasia Hibiscus planted in my yard does not emerge until early June! This year it surprised me by leafing out in mid-May. Patience is required each spring when growing hardy hibiscus. Often, gardeners will assume their hibiscus is dead as all else has leafed out, but the hibiscus shows no sign of life. They give up hope only to be amazed a few weeks later when they discover their hibiscus has seemingly “rose from the dead” and is leafing out nicely.

Here at Johnson’s Nursery, we grow several selections of the Fleming series of hardy hibiscus. We find them to be fully winter hardy for our area and average about three feet in height. The exception is ‘Crown Jewels’ which is a shorter cultivar. Some of the selections produce huge flowers up to twelve inches wide. We grow them in #5 containers so they are big and full of flowers buds the first year.

Hardy hibiscus is an herbaceous perennial, so the foliage will die to the ground each winter. It is best to leave the foliage standing over winter and prune it back to three inches above ground in the spring. The new shoots will eventually emerge and then the old canes can be cut back further. This way you can see where your hibiscus is when not in leaf (prevents being accidentally dug up). We currently grow and have the following cultivars available:

Crown Jewels
A short selection (thirty inches tall) with bronze foliage.
White flowers with red eye.

Crown Jewels Hibiscus

Grows three to four feet tall with green foliage. Large lavender/pink flowers.
Appears to be a more vigorous grower than some of the other selections.

Fantasia Hibiscus

Bronze, cut-leaf foliage gives this plant a lacy open appearance.
Extremely large, bright red flowers (twelve inches wide).
Grows three feet tall.

Fireball Hibiscus

Kopper King
Beautiful maroon foliage. White flowers with light pink streaking.
and a red eye. This selection seems to be the latest to leaf
out in spring. Its superior foliage makes it rather showy even when not in bloom.
Grows three feet tall.

Kopper King Hibiscus


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