April showers have brought May flowers… to the blog. Today’s post is part of a May Bouquet series focused on flowers one might find in a bouquet. Y’know, leading up to Mother’s Day this Sunday. Think of these posts as daily reminders with wonderful suggestions on ways to honor the mothers in your lives.
Today’s featured flower is the hibiscus. These large and colorful blooms demand notice and are the opposite botanical personality of the shrinking violet. They are synonymous with the tropics, prominently featured on Hawaiian print fabrics, more so than even palm trees and pineapples. In fact, a yellow hibiscus native to the islands (Hibiscus brackenridgei) is the official state flower of Hawaii. Hibiscus plants make great additions to any garden, but if you plan to keep them for multiple growing seasons, they are easier to manage as potted plants. This is because they are sensitive to cold and will have to be protected in most climates during the winter.
If you are looking for a plant to turn any area into a tropical oasis, hibiscus is the right choice. They are available in all types of bold colors- yellow, pink, red, and coral. Hibiscus breeders and hybridizers have been busy generating new varieties in all shapes, sizes and color combinations. There are a large number of distinct species of Hibiscus, but the majority of the ornamental varieties found in garden centers are likely to be Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Genetically, it is a polyploid. This means it has multiple copies (>2) of genomes and not just the single copy from each parent (diploid) like we are. This wealth of genetic material means that these plants have a seemingly bottomless bag out of which to pull tricks when it comes to flower form and color. Crosses and hybrids of plants can yield all kinds of color combinations; thus, when grown from seed, you never know what you’ll get. If you like surprises, that’s great. If you had your heart set on a particular color, then go with a grafted plant that has been propagated to give the type you would like. Check out some of the links below for more hibiscus flower eye candy.
Can’t pick just one favorite color or combination? You may not have to. Some plants have several different varieties grafted onto main rootstock bases to give you a single plant with red blooms on one stem, yellow on another and coral on yet another.
Don’t these flowers just look good enough to eat? Well, you can. The flowers are used as the base for hibiscus tea and dried flowers are also candied and used as garnishes. Humans aren’t the only species that appreciate the taste of the hibiscus. These plants are also attractants for butterflies and birds. If your landscape is frequented by deer, prepare to go to battle to protect your beautiful and tasty blooms from them as well.
If you’re inspired to grow your own, check your local garden centers now. For my Baton Rouge area friends, we’ve apparently just missed (May 4th) the Red Stick Hibiscus Society’s show and sale, but the shows of the New Orleans and Acadiana Chapters are still to come this month. Or if you are really serious about hibiscus, you may just want to join the American Hibiscus Society. FYI, their national convention will be held in Lafayette, LA in June of this year. Check here for details.
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