Exotic hibiscus bring a hint of the tropics to your landscape

The names given to plants can be highly evocative, creating a delightful mental image before we have even seen the plant. Shakespeare's Juliet might have believed that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but the folks who develop new plant hybrids know the importance of creating exactly the right name that will strike a chord with gardeners.
I must confess that I can be influenced, at least initially, by a plant name that suggests striking colors or exotic perfumes, but over the years I've learned to withhold judgment until I've seen the plant in my own landscape!
Today I'll tell you about some plants that do live up to their very apt names.
The first four are members of the Hibiscus family. Hibiscus (sometimes called rosemallow) is a genus of about 200+ flowering plants that are native to warm, sub-tropical and even tropical areas of the world. In the USA, most are hardy in USDA growing zones 5 through 9.
For many peoples of the world, the Hibiscus is more than just a pretty face. The variety known as Roselle is used in the West Indies, Egypt and Sudan to make jams and herbal teas and the Hibiscus species Kenaf is used in paper making. White Hibiscus is believed to have medicinal properties by the proponents of the traditional Indian system of Ayurveda and Hindus use Hibiscus as an offering to the goddess Kali.
I have heard that red Hibiscus has been used to treat dandruff and that dried Hibiscus is considered an edible delicacy in Central America, not that I have ever tried either of those uses personally.
As you can see, Hibiscus has quite an exotic pedigree. If that wasn't enough, growers have given creative names to some of the newer Hibiscus varieties.
Hibiscus Rose Satin This is quite the showy plant featuring large, single, deep rose-pink flowers with a blazing red center. The petals have a wonderful silky, satin sheen that you just want to stroke. Rose Satin has the richest true pink bloom of any Rose of Sharon that I've seen.
Hibiscus Violet Satin Like the Rose Satin, the Violet Satin was hybridized by Claude Bellion and this is another real eye-popper. Covered with deeply saturated red-violet flowers, the color looks almost electric when the light catches them just so. This variety adds a burst of color to a mid-summer garden.
Hibiscus Blue Satin I don't believe I've ever seen a blue Hibiscus with richer, more vibrant color than the Blue Satin. The saturated bright blue color of the blooms will add a tropical accent to almost any landscape
Hibiscus Blush Satin Rounding out the quartet, the aptly-named Blush has delicate pink "cheeks" around a bright red center.
All four of the Satin hybrids seem to be more vigorous and hardy than older varieties. If necessary, they can be quite heavily pruned in late spring or early fall, but left to their own devices will top out between 6 and 10 feet at maturity. They are tolerant of most soil unless it is very dry or very wet.
Moving from Hibiscus to a Hydrangea with an evocative name...
Hydrangea Lemon Wave With this plant, the foliage is more spectacular than the blooms, and if the name evokes images of dark green leaves irregularly splotched with creamy lemon yellow, then the hybrid developers who named it have done their job well. Amid those lemony leaves, waving gently in the breeze, you see delicate lace-cap floret clusters in July and August. The blooms are on the pinkish side in neutral to alkaline soil and a light blue in acidic soils.
For more information about Hydrangeas, particularly the dwarf varieties, see last week's column. If you missed it, you can find it archived at my Web site, www.landsteward.org
Yes, plant names can conjure up delightful visions in our minds. Start planning now to add an exotic element to your landscape next season.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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