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Southern Gardening: Cajun hibiscus are terrific tropical hibiscus for state

 

Selections in the Cajun series of tropical hibiscus, which include this Peppermint Patty, perform well in containers, making them easy to move indoors to protect from winter temperatures.

Selections in the Cajun series of tropical hibiscus, which include this Peppermint Patty, perform well in containers, making them easy to move indoors to protect from winter temperatures. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension Service

 

Dr. Gary Bachman

 

 

Lately I've been singing the praises of having hardy hibiscuses in your landscape. Who can resist the colorful flowers that are literally the size of a dinner plate? 

 

But the tropical hibiscus deserves at least equal praise. Today, I want to tell you about the Cajun hibiscus series, because these plants produce some of the most beautiful, complex and mesmerizing color combinations. These flowers also can be huge, with some exceeding 9 inches in diameter. 

 

There are too many Cajun selections to describe in this column. Colors range from bright yellows to pink, red and whites. Some of the more spectacular ones are blends and those with bright-red eyes. Talk about a Technicolor dream. The foliage is dark green and glossy, and it provides a nice background for the colorful blooms. 

 

If there is a drawback to this plant, it would be that the flowers bloom only for a single day. But there is an upside: These plants produce flowers almost continually from spring to frost in the fall. 

 

In most Mississippi gardens, Cajun hibiscuses need winter protection. You must dig up in-ground plants, and prune both the branches and the roots back a bit. Pot them in a good potting mix and then transplant them back into the landscape in the spring. 

 

Cajun hibiscus is perfectly happy growing in a big container, which makes it very easy to move the plant into a protective garage or shed ahead of freezing temperatures. 

 

Choose a site for your Cajun hibiscus that has plenty of sunlight. It must have excellent drainage, so if planting in the garden or landscape, use raised growing beds. In a container, use a good commercial growing mix that has been engineered to provide good drainage. 

 

To have the best-looking hibiscus, be sure the plants do not go through periods of drought. These plants must have consistent, even watering to maintain gorgeous flowers. The watering needs vary with the season, with more water needed in hot weather than in the cooler months. Overwatering or underwatering can cause buds to drop prior to the flowers fully opening. 

 

Cajun hibiscuses need a readily available supply of nutrients and like monthly feedings. Topdress with slow-release fertilizers at the beginning of the season and then use water-soluble fertilizers and feed during normal watering. 

 

Cajun hibiscuses are perfect for adding a tropical flair on a porch or patio. Combination plant with other tropicals such as bananas or canna, which require similar care and management. 

 

Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi ad hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]

 

 

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