| 25.4°C Dublin

Good summer sees hardy hibiscus in an early show





People may be familiar with the spectacular large flowers of the tropical hibiscus that is planted in holiday destinations with warm climates. The flowers can be red, orange, pink or yellow.

Although probably better known from holidays, this tropical species is strictly a greenhouse plant in this country, except possibly in a warm, sheltered place for a few weeks in summer. The flowers are a hand-span across and have a protruding golden yellow style at the centre.

The hardy hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus, is quite similar and the flowers of this plant are akin in shape to the tropical hibiscus, but they are smaller and make a flatter trumpet.

The colour range is pink, wine-red, white and purplish blue.

There are beautiful varieties with white flowers and red flashes, but the most widely grown and best-known is 'Blue Bird' which has purplish flowers with a deep red-purple throat. 'Hamabo' has blush-white flowers with a dark-red centre.

'Woodbridge' has deep pink flowers with a red throat and 'Red Heart' has white flowers with a red flash at the base of the petals. 'Diana' has large, pure-white flowers.

There are some hybrids between the hardy hibiscus and the tropical species, notably a pink-mauve variety called 'Lilac Queen' which is hardy.

Those mentioned are all single-flowered forms. There are double-flowered kinds too, such as 'Helene' but these can be slow to open their flowers and in poor years do not manage to do so at all.

The single-flowered kinds do better in this regard, and 'Blue Bird' is the best.

The flowers open in late August in a good year, not until September in a year of low sunshine and warmth. In some years, the flower buds rot as they try to open.

Home & Property Newsletter

Get the best home, property and gardening stories straight to your inbox every Saturday

This field is required

So, the plant can serve as a gauge of how good or bad the summer has been. This year, the hardy hibiscus was in flower before the end of July, a full month ahead of its normal flowering and five or six weeks ahead of a poor year.

This plant is often planted by a wall in a sunny spot to increase its chances of flowering and to continue flowering well into autumn.

It likes well-drained, fertile soil. It is not a great competitor against other shrubs and needs room and sunlight.

It is slow to come into leaf, not making any growth of leaves until May and sometimes early June.

This makes it a struggle to grow and flower before the growing season ends.

Although there is the possibility of poor performance in some years, this is a beautiful shrub when well furnished with flowers in a good year.

Most Watched