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Hibiscus - Rose of China

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hawaiian hibiscus 02-230x153Includes nearly 200 species of herbs, shrubs and small trees of the mallow family. The musk mallow (H. abelmoschus) of India gives us perfume from it’s seeds. Okra (H. esculentus) provides a tasty pod used in the USA for gumbo soups and southern cooking dishes.

Rose-of-Sharon (H. syriacus) is a deciduous flowering form of great garden importance because it is so reliable and hardy even in very cold districts. Rose Mallow (H. moscheutos) will even live in salt marshes where it sports dinner plate-size flowers from 2m. canes that shoot away from the crown like bamboo.

Hibiscus rosea-sinensis, the Rose-of-China or Shoeblack Plant, is by far the best know species. This is a native of tropical Asia and southern China. For centuries the colourful flowers were used by boot—blacks to polish shoes. Today the handsome flowers are more likely to be found in a Polynesian hairstyle or to polish off a modern landscape garden. There are now hundreds of named cultivars.

Being a truly tropical shrub, hibiscus need great heat and humidity to perform properly. While some varieties will tolerate frost or occasional freezing, the plants are frequently set back by this extreme cold. They are definitely a marginal shrub in the subtropics of New Zealand where temperatures never really reach the levels that hibiscus demand for best performance.

All hibiscus prefer full sun, the stronger the better. Some hardy varieties will survive in part shade and still flower adequately provided all other conditions are perfect. Soil should be rich, light and fluffy, and very free draining. Most losses of hibiscus are due to wet feet and poor drainage rather than cold. But a combination of the two is certain death! Ideal conditions for a hibiscus would be a north facing wall in full sun, sheltered from cold winds with an overhanging eave to keep excess winter rain and frost off the shrub.

While hibiscus prefer drier conditions during their winter resting period, they demand frequent watering during the warm growing season if conditions become dry. They are gross feeders while in active growth. A complete, balanced plant food (tomato or rose food) mixed with blood and bone and compost can be spread around the shrubs monthly from spring through early autumn.

Hibiscus also thrive in containers but remember that the pots must be sheltered from the elements during the winter. Excellent results are obtained by growing hibiscus in a sheet of black plastic or weed mat which helps control drainage and soil temperature.

The two groups of cultivars most commonly grown in New Zealand today come from Hawaiian and Fijian ancestry.

The Hawaiian hybrids usually have open, flat flowers that can be 30cm across. Double forms, waived petals and multi-colours of almost every shade other than blue are common. These are very tender, smaller ornamental shrubs often grown in the tropics in beds as a substitute for roses.

Fijian hybrids are a little hardier than the Hawaiians. Flowers are somewhat smaller and sometimes more funnel shaped with more solid colour shades. Fijian varieties are more robust, sometimes attain the height of a small tree, and are by far the hardiest and most reliable forms for New Zealand.

They are frequently used as hedges, screens, ornamental and border plants in the landscape as well as in containers. The flowers are often picked in bud with their stem end inserted into a thin bamboo skewer to create decorative arrangements. The flower buds will open naturally as if on the plant.

Since the flowers last only a day often closing by evening the buds can be picked early before opening and place in the refrigerator to slow their opening for an evening display. They look great when floated in bowls of water or open pools.

Hibiscus can be forced to bloom more heavily by feeding regularly, placing them in really sunny, warm, moist spots and by pruning. The shrubs are best pruned back in late winter or early spring. Canes of vigorous Fijian hybrids can be cut back as much as half their length while delicate Hawaiians may need little more than tip pruning.

However, because hibiscus bloom on new wood, it is important to prune or pick out growing tips occasionally in order to keep a bushy plant with as many growing/flowering tips as possible.

Hawaiian Skies and Hawaiian Girl are beautiful combinations of rich sunset shades. Golden Belle is a giant, single, golden yellow. Molly Cummings is rich, deepest, velvet red. Flame is a giant single Hawaiian that lives up to it’s name. Firedance is yellow/orange/scarlet in an eye-catching semi-double.

Sinensis is a Fijian tomato red single that is very free flowering, vigorous and the most hardy: a real classic. Suva Queen is a double pink Fijian that is also quite vigorous. Mrs. Horton is a double red Fijian.

Agnes Gault is the largest flowered hardy Fijian in single bright rose pink. Chances are there’s a hibiscus in this group that perfectly suits your garden!

The two groups of cultivars most commonly grown in New Zealand today come from Hawaiian and Fijian ancestry. The Hawaiian hybrids usually have open, flat flowers that can be 30cm across. Double forms, waived petals and multi-colours of almost every shade other than blue are common.

These are very tender, smaller ornamental shrubs often grown in the tropics in beds as a substitute for roses. Fijian hybrids are a little hardier than the Hawaiians.

Flowers are somewhat smaller and sometimes more funnel shaped with more solid colour shades. Fijian varieties are more robust, sometimes attain the height of a small tree, and are by far the hardiest and most reliable forms for New Zealand.

They are frequently used as hedges, screens, ornamental and border plants in the landscape as well as in containers.The flowers are often picked in bud with their stem end inserted into a thin bamboo skewer to create decorative arrangements. The flower buds will open naturally as if on the plant.

Since the flowers last only a day often closing by evening the buds can be picked early before opening and place in the refrigerator to slow their opening for an evening display. They look great when floated in bowls of water or open pools.

Hibiscus can be forced to bloom more heavily by feeding regularly, placing them in really sunny, warm, moist spots and by pruning. The shrubs are best pruned back in late winter or early spring. Canes of vigorous Fijian hybrids can be cut back as much as half their length while delicate Hawaiians may need little more than tip pruning.

However, because hibiscus bloom on new wood, it is important to prune or pick out growing tips occasionally in order to keep a bushy plant with as many growing/flowering tips as possible.Hawaiian Skies and Hawaiian Girl are beautiful combinations of rich sunset shades. Golden Belle is a giant,single, golden yellow.

Molly Cummings is rich, deepest, velvet red. Flame is a giant single Hawaiian that lives up to it's name. Firedance is yellow/orange/scarlet in an eye-catching semi-double. Sinensis is a Fijian tomato red single that is very free flowering, vigorous and the most hardy: a real classic.Suva Queen is a double pink Fijian that is also quite vigorous.

Mrs. Horton is a double red Fijian. Agnes Gault is the largest flowered hardy Fijian in single bright rose pink. Chances are there's a hibiscus in this group that perfectly suits your garden!

Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis, the Rose of China, was once also known as the Shoeblack Plant because it's flowers were used by tropical bootblacks to polish shoes. Today there are thousands of cultivars and hybrids of this spectacular tropical shrub. They need a warm, sunny spot, sheltered from severe winds and frosts.

They are excellent in pots and thrive in a sunroom. Good drainage is essential to success. Feed monthly with a complete plant food like tomato or rose food. Prune old canes back by 1/3 in late winter and tip prune occasionally during the growing season to increase flowering and bushy growth.

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dale-john 01-100x66 Dale Harvey and John Newton met in Melbourne Australia in 1981. Since then they both have supported each others careers while also building and maintaining their own. Read about how they were able to turn their joint careers into one and creating a dream of a better world starting in their own local community.

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