Southern Gardening: Hardy Summer Storm hibiscus is garden treat


Although the blooms last for just one day, the Summerific Summer Storm hibiscus produces a large number of flowers to enjoy all summer.

Although the blooms last for just one day, the Summerific Summer Storm hibiscus produces a large number of flowers to enjoy all summer. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension


Gary Bachman



One of my landscape joys is growing plants that share their big flowers with me.


Bog flowers have a presence and create interest wherever they are planted. This might be because of their brief flowering period. Plants with small flowers seem to produce color all summer long, but plants with large flowers shouldn't be ignored just because of their short flowering period.


One plant with large flowers that I cannot garden without is the hardy hibiscus. Because of the impact it can have in any landscape, I think every garden should have at least one hardy hibiscus.



Hardy hibiscus adds value to our summer landscapes with their displays of enormous flowers. And when I say huge, I mean flowers of hardy hibiscus are HUGE, sometimes up to 12 inches across. In fact, it is often called dinnerplate hibiscus.


Every spring, I wait with anticipation for my hardy hibiscus to start showing some growth. Hardy hibiscus is one of the garden plants that like to sleep in and take their time waking up. Even my butterfly bushes, which are notorious late-spring growers, are up growing and flowering before the hardy hibiscus.


Hardy hibiscuses are bushy plants that can be from 2 to 5 feet tall, depending on the selection. Foliage colors range from light to medium green, with some selections even offering my favorite burgundy and dark-purple leaves. Although there are many available in the nursery trade, my favorites have been the Summerific series.


This year, I was distressed that my favorite Summerific Summer Storm hardy hibiscus did not show any growth by May 15, when it is usually up and growing. After a mild winter, the new growth can start as early as May 1. It was Memorial Day weekend before I finally saw the first shoot peeking out of the crown of the plant.


The combination of flower and foliage colors of Summerific Summer Storm is as dramatic as a summer thunderstorm. The flowers are white with a red eye, and these are displayed above the maple-leaf-shaped, deep-maroon-purple foliage. This is a compact growing selection that I have growing in a 15-gallon nursery container.


Summerific Summer Storm flowers are huge. In past years, I've measured some at over 9 inches in diameter, while most are consistently 8 inches. The sad part is the beautiful flowers are open only for a single day, but the good news is the plant produces a huge number of flowers.


My Summerific Summer Storm has had over 25 flower buds ready to bloom this year.


Hibiscuses love the sun and need moist, well-drained soil. If you supply these conditions, it will result in large flowers and lush foliage. In spring, cut back any remaining stems before new growth appears. I typically cut mine back hard to about 6 inches in the spring. Do this any time before the new growth starts to appear.


So if you're ready to feast on a dinnerplate full of gaudy color, look at some of the different varieties of hardy hibiscus.


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




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