Rose mallows add tropical feel to gardens

Published 6:12 am Tuesday, August 22, 2006

By Staff
My rose mallow (Hibiscus) is now blooming.
Huge, saucer-like flowers (can be 6 to 10-inches or more across), they're white with a crimson "eye." I planted it in the back of one of my flower beds and the flowers glow and stick out like a "sore thumb."
The huge, crepe paper-like flowers are like a beacon, attracting not only human attention, but insects as well. It's no wonder the Japanese beetles love them so , and since I don't like or use pesticides, I like to pick them off, if I have any, and slay them by hand. This year I had only about a dozen in my garden.
My grandma Evie had several rose mallows in her garden. How she loved her flowers. Having only one plant in the garden is like eating only one potato chip. It can't be done.
Hibiscus or rose mallows thrive in a well-drained soil, with lots of organic matter. This would be ideal in full sun. Shrub-like perennials, they last for many years. Thick, erect sturdy stalks arise from a woody crown with deep, spreading fleshy roots.
The lush, green leaves grow alternately on strong stems, crowned with flowers that have prominent bottlebrush-like stamens that remind one of some distant tropical island.
Each individual flower may last only one day, but with plenty of buds, a new flower will open daily, for a succession of blooms lasting anywhere from three to six weeks.
And this is not all rose mallows have to offer. Their woody seed capsules, which are very appealing in the garden, can also be used in dried flower arrangements. Many birds will feast on the seeds in time of need in the winter too.
The flowers come in shades of pink, rose, red, scarlet, burgundy, yellow and white.
Some even have leaves with a burgundy/copper coloring and a new variety with a semi-double, rich, orangie-gold colored flower.
Growing three to five-inches tall and three-feet wide, rose mallow are late starters in the garden, at times, not emerging until late June. Divide plants every seven to 10 years. You may need a saw to cut through the woody roots.
Rose mallows do not tolerate drought. If it's dry, they will be one of the first plants to have wilted leaves.
A good background or specimen plant. If planted in a container, the plants will not grow as large. They will be smaller. Cut back the tough woody stems to the ground in late fall or early spring, as they will regrow, sprout from the crown again next spring (Zones 5 to 10).