Hibiscus In Iowa

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We’ve all seen those hibiscus plants at garden centers with their HUGE blooms, but buying the right one can be a bit confusing.   Which one is for the landscape, or are they just a patio plant?  If you’re not careful, you could easily purchase a tropical hibiscus for your outdoor landscape.  The tropical hibiscus grows in Iowa but needs to be brought indoors for winter.  For outdoor landscape needs, choose the Rose-of-Sharon or the Hardy Hibiscus.
If space isn’t an issue, consider the Rose-of-Sharon or Althea Shrub (Hibiscus syriacus).   Don’t let the name fool you.  The Rose-of-Sharon is a hibiscus, not a rose.  These species grow to 6 or 7 feet high in a tight, upright form, do best in full sun and well-drained soils, and grow at a medium rate.  Flowers bloom in mid to late summer, when few other bushes are in full bloom.  The blossoms are 3-4 inches in diameter, trumpet-shaped, and can be single or double bloom.  Flowers range from white, red, pink, or lavender/blue.  This shrub is a hummingbird and butterfly magnet.  Little pruning is required.
The Hardy Hibiscus or Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) is much smaller in plant size, staying under 5’, but these flowers can reach a whopping 12” in width.  The hardy hibiscus come in a variety of colors, such as mauve, pink, plum, red, white and lavender, often with contrasting centers, and they do not come in double blooms.  The hardy hibiscus has dull green heart-shaped leaves.  The blossoms only last a day, but the show can last for eight weeks up until the first fall frost.  The hardy hibiscus loves sun as well and can tolerate moist soils.   These flowers die back to the ground each year and often are the last perennials to emerge in late May or early June.  Patience is key.  When in bloom, these shrubs are show stoppers.
If you’re looking for a little of the tropics year round, select the Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis).   The tropical hibiscus must be brought indoors in the fall, when temperatures fall into the 40’s and 50’s.  These flowers are often used as patio décor throughout the summer, and the variety of colors consist of orange, yellow, white, pink, red or lavender flowers.   This variety tends to have smaller flowers and glossy deep green leaves, unlike the hardy hibiscus.  Flowers can be single or double and sometimes have contrasting eyes.  The tropical hibiscus performs best in full sun to part shade and consistent moisture and fertilizer are required.   Before bringing these plants indoors, carefully inspect for insects, especially white-fly, and once inside, this hibiscus will require bright, direct light.  
Pay close attention to hibiscus labels, and you’ll find the right variety for your landscape or patio needs.  Keep in mind that tropical is synonymous with Hawaii, not Iowa, and you won’t make a mistake.

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