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
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 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
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
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org