Beautiful and brief blossom
  Three varieties of hibiscus are Texas Superstar plants

May 27, 2004
Victoria County
Master Gardeners

Since the Master Gardeners began this column a year ago this summer, Texas Superstar plants have been presented in five other articles. With hot, sunny days right around the corner, it is time to focus on the beautiful hibiscus plant, and to look at three varieties that have been designated Texas Superstars.

To the confusion of many people around the globe, there are numerous species, varieties and cultivars labeled under the "hibiscus" name. Most often, however, the name is associated with the renowned tropical species, hibiscus rosas-sinensis, for which there are more than 5,000 registered cultivars. It is in the Malvaceae or mallow plant family, which includes okra, cotton, Turk's cap and hollyhock.

The hibiscus flower is unique in that it does not require water and usually lasts only one day during the warm months; however, a few cultivars have blossoms that last two to three days. Single blooms typically have five petals; the full and crested doubles are identical but have extra petals in addition to the basic five. Bloom sizes commonly vary from 3 to 8 inches with even larger sizes appearing on some hybrids. Color combinations and flower forms are extraordinarily mixed in an almost endless variation of shade and petal arrangements.

Growing habits range from sprawling or semi-prostrate to tall and upright. Heights can vary from 3 to 25 feet. Potted dwarf hibiscuses are popular purchases, but often mature to 5 to 8 feet after the temporary plant growth regulator (chemical) is no longer effective. Sunny locations with well-drained soil are necessary conditions for the hibiscus, as is adequate growing space. While they vary in width according to variety, most hibiscus varieties thriving in our area need a minimum of 3 feet between plants. Overcrowding may produce tall, spindly growth and increase the occurrence of insect and disease problems.

As you might recall from previous Texas Superstar articles, plants and trees receiving the Superstar designation have been field-tested for several years, specifically in and for our Texas climate. They have been found to be heat-, drought-and pest-resistant when established. Three perennial hibiscus varieties, Lord Baltimore, flare and moy grande have been named Texas Superstars. All three provide stunning color from summer to early fall, love the heat, require very little maintenance, and are so pest-resistant that almost never will pesticides need to be applied.

The perennial hibiscus prefers a sunny location and well-drained soil with lots of organic matter for vigorous growth, but these plants in the mallow family are very accommodating and will tolerate less desirable soils and light shade. They are herbaceous perennials, meaning their tops die down to the ground each winter, but new shoots will come roaring back into lush growth when soils warm the following spring. They are among the easiest to grow plants and are an attractive addition to any landscape.

Photos courtesy of Texas Superstar program

Copyright 2006, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

Lord Baltimore Hibiscus            

The Lord Baltimore rose mallow hibiscus is a stunning blooming perennial with red flowers. It is an improved sterile hybrid having distinctively lobed leaves and eye-catching red flowers up to 10 inches in diameter. Five feet tall by 5 feet wide, this improved hybrid prefers neutral to acid soils and needs full sun exposure. Re-blooming is enhanced by prompt removal of spent blossoms. Mulching around the base of the bush also lessens water needs.

The Lord Baltimore may be used in large containers as a perennial and in butterfly and hummingbird gardens. In the winter, the stalks can be trimmed to 6 inches above the ground. Propagation can be accomplished by cuttings, although plants protected by patents cannot be propagated and given or sold without permission from the breeder/seller.

Flare Hibiscus    photo courtesy

Adding a punch of red to your landscape will not be hard if you go for the next perennial hibiscus. Flare rose mallow or hibiscus x 'flare' was developed by Dr. Sam McFadden of Sommerville, Tenn. The compact form and attractive green foliage was born from a cross between brilliant ceris' x mouchetus and clown x mouchetus. It is self-sterile, making this a profuse bloomer from summer until frost. Although the blooms are similar to Lord Baltimore, the petals overlap, creating a 10-inch wide bright, red circle. Being only 3 to 4 feet tall and attracting hummingbirds and butterflies are more great reasons to add this beautiful plant to your perennial garden or to a container plant on your front porch. This wonderful cultivar does great in any soil type, even our sticky, highly alkaline clays.

Moy Grande Hibiscus

The Texas Superstar moy grande, also known as the Texas giant hibiscus is the result of the cross breeding of a hibiscus moscheutos hybrid with a hibiscus grandiflorus by Ying Doon Moy, a research and development horticulturist. The huge 12-inch rose-pink flowers are possibly the largest flowered hibiscuses in the world. Moy grande can reach a height of 5 feet tall and can grow to be 5 feet wide. The beautiful display of blooms can be seen from summer until early fall and is often used in planting butterfly and hummingbird gardens. With the proper potting mix, this hibiscus is also a great choice for containers. This cultivar will grow in acid or alkaline soils. If you would like to see a moy grande in bloom, there is a moy grande hibiscus planted by the Victoria County Master Gardeners at the Victoria Educational Gardens located on the Victoria County Airport grounds.

Hibiscus flowers last a full day and can be cut for decorative use. As stated previously, they will keep without being put in water. If wanted for evening use, once the blossom is fully open in the morning, it can be cut and refrigerated until just before using it in the evening. It should remain open for approximately four hours.

When purchasing these popular plants, look for the Texas Superstar label. Texas Superstar hibiscus are Texas-tough and will brighten up your landscape with show-stopping color. If you have been looking for an easy care perennial that thrives in the harsh Texas heat and will "blow your doors off" with color, then your prayers have been answered with the new perennial hibiscus varieties. They will add as much warmth in color as the sun will provide to your garden setting in the summer days ahead.