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Today is September 27, 2020

Southern Gardening

Hibiscus varieties offer spectacular tropical color

By Dr. Gary Bachman

Hibiscus varieties offer spectacular tropical color

“For the best flowering, be sure to plant Cajun hibiscus where it will receive at least six hours of full sun every day. This will keep the plant more tightly branched and intensify the colors.”

Hibiscus plants are great choices for our Mississippi gardens and landscapes. 

I don't know any home gardener who can resist the colorful flowers of Cajun hibiscus plants, with equally colorful names like Hoochie Papa, Peppermint Patty and Crawfish Pie.

These flowers are some of the most dazzling in my garden each year. The color combinations can seem almost impossible, but there they are, beautiful and complex, like random combinations from a box of Pantone color chips. The various selections feature bright yellows, pinks, reds and whites. Blends and those with bright-red eyes are some of the more spectacular. The Cajun hibiscus selections with cool gray in the mix are a technicolor dream. The foliage is dark green and glossy and provides a nice background to display the colorful blooms.

Additionally, the flowers are huge, having diameters easily over seven inches. There’s one disappointing issue: these gorgeous flowers last only a single day. Fortunately, Cajun hibiscus will almost continually produce flowers from late spring to the fall season.

Nearly everything in my garden and landscape is in big planters, like 15- and 25-gallon containers. There are a couple of reasons for this growing strategy. First, the big container will hold more water and help keep the root system consistently moist, even on the hottest summer days. Second, some plants, like Cajun hibiscus, will not tolerate our winter temperatures, not even along the coast. If your plants are growing in containers, you can move them into a garage or shed ahead of the arrival of cold winter temperatures.

For the best flowering, be sure to plant Cajun hibiscus where it will receive at least six hours of full sun every day. This will keep the plant more tightly branched and intensify the colors. Good planting bed drainage is a must; this is another reason I grow in containers. Another option is to grow in raised beds.

Maintaining consistent root zone moisture is key for Cajun hibiscus to flower through the season. A period of droughty weather will quickly turn off the flowering and cause any developing flower buds to drop off, and it may be hard to get it started flowering again. The watering needs will vary with the season – more in hot weather and less in the cooler months. Overwatering can cause buds to drop before the flowers fully open. Take-home point: keep a close eye on your watering.

Another key to maintaining the flowering of Cajun hibiscus is fertilization. Flowering requires a tremendous amount of energy. I always use a slow-release fertilizer at planting and then water-soluble fertilizers as I water through the summer season.

Cajun hibiscus plants are perfect for adding a tropical flair on a porch or patio. Combination-plant with other tropicals, such as bananas and cannas, which require similar care and management.


Gary Bachman, Ph.D., is an associate Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also host of “Southern Gardening” radio and TV programs.


Gay Austin was named president of the National Garden Clubs, Inc., not the Garden Clubs of America as printed in the May issue. We apologize for the error and congratulate her on this prestigious new role. 

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