All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A

by Pernell Gerver

Bookmark this page or add it to your favorites now!
(Reload or refresh each time you visit to get the current week's columns.)

 Tell a friend about Pernell Gerver's Official Web Site 

"Growing the Many Different Perennial Hibiscus"

Late summer and into autumn is a colorful time in the perennial garden. There are lots of different perennials in bloom at that time. One of the showiest is perennial hibiscus.

Perennial hibiscus provides gorgeous, late-season blooms that are definitely worth waiting for. It bears some of the largest flowers of any plant in the garden. Some can reach up to 10 inches across or more, about the size of a dinnerplate! They have crinkly petals and flower color includes red, white, and various shades of pink. The huge, single flowers bloom on tall, shrub-like plants that can reach five feet high or more, although there are shorter varieties. The plants lend a tropical look to the garden, but they are hardy perennials that come back bigger and better every year. They begin growing in late spring and by late summer, they are in full bloom.

Perennial hibiscus grow well in a sunny spot in the garden, but they will tolerate partial shade quite well. In my garden they are growing in a spot that gets quite a bit of afternoon shade and they bloom profusely nonetheless. Perennial hibiscus are also magnets for butterflies and hummingbirds and because of their later bloom period, they are a good source of nectar for hummingbirds as they begin their southward migration.

Hibiscus 'Robert Fleming' There are many different perennial hibiscus. One of the deepest red varieties is 'Robert Fleming.' The enormous flowers are nine inches across or more and they are deep red. The flowers are held on red stems that carry crinkled leaves with red veins. It's a more compact perennial hibiscus, topping out at about three feet high and as wide.

Hibiscus 'Kopper King'In addition to colorful flowers, there are many different perennial hibiscus that have interesting foliage. The variety 'Kopper King' has finely-dissected, coppery-bronze leaves that almost look more like a Japanese maple than a hibiscus. Its foliage is reason enough to grow this variety, but it also produces stunning flowers. Each eye-catching flower is white with a raspberry-red center and pink veins. As the flower matures, it changes to a blush pink. The flowers are huge, up to a foot across and bloom on plants that grow to three and a half feet high and as wide.

Hibiscus 'Fantasia'Another hibiscus variety to grow as much for its foliage as for its flowers is 'Fantasia.' It has deep-maroon-green, maple-like foliage that is the perfect backdrop for its equally-stunning flowers. The huge, lavender-pink flowers have a thicker substance than most hibiscus and the petals have wavy edges. It forms a handsome plant four feet high and as wide.

Hibiscus 'Cinnamon Grappa'Hibiscus 'Cinnamon Grappa' is another perennial hibiscus that has attractive foliage and stunning flowers. Its large, round flowers are rich red. The flowers are borne on upright stems that carry large, medium-green, maple-like leaves that are deeply cut. The flowers and foliage are held on bright-red stems that create a stunning contrast. It's one of the earlier-blooming perennial hibiscus, in full bloom in midsummer. It grows nearly four feet high and two feet wide.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"How to Care for Peonies in the Garden"


Q. I have three peony plants. They are beautiful and have large flowers on them each year, but the blooms don't last very long and I am stuck with flowerless shrubs for the rest of the summer. What type of care do they need in the fall to overwinter best? When they flower in the late spring, the blooms are so big that if they get wet the plant collapses and the blooms fall apart. What can be done to prevent this so that the blooms last longer?

A. Peonies, like other perennials, have their own bloom period. Peonies bloom from late spring through early summer. The large flowers are beautiful and I wish they'd last longer, too.

Peonies do not require any special winter protection. They are a very hardy perennial.

To prevent the plants laden with flowers from collapsing, in early spring set a peony support ring above each plant. The stems will grow through the grid of the support ring. Depending on the size of your plants, you may need to add a second support ring above the first one. This support system will hold the stems upright and will prevent them from flopping over when the heavy blooms open.

When peony blooms are fully open and we get heavy rain, it can shatter the blooms, causing the petals to fall off and, unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to prevent that from happening, except to pick the open flowers before it rains and enjoy them indoors as a cut flower.

Click here to submit gardening questions for Pernell Gerver's online Q & A column.

Click here to read previous online columns in the archives.

Pernell Gerver's Home page Pernell Gerver's Gardening Workshop Series Biographical profile - Pernell Gerver Pernell Gerver's Online Store