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    Meet the Hibiscus

    Here's how to help your plant of the month thrive

    Hardy hibiscus can be started from seed or plants. To get a jump-start on the growing season, the National Garden Bureau recommends starting seeds indoors 6 to 12 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Soak the seeds overnight and then sow ½ inch deep into well-draining soil. Keep soil moist. After four to five weeks, transplant to larger pots.

    Plant hardy hibiscus in full sun with plenty of room to allow for good air circulation. The plant is tolerant of a wide range of soils if they do not dry out. It does best in slightly acidic, well-draining soil that has been amended with plenty of organic matter. If in Northern climates, plant in full sun in your landscape. If you live in the South, Hibiscus may benefit with some slight shade, particularly from the hot afternoon soon.

    Hardy hibiscus, particularly the newer, more compact varieties, require little pruning during the growing season. If you have an older variety that grows quite tall, it can be cut back in the early spring. The Missouri Botanical Garden advises pinching back growing tips when they reach 8 inches and again at 12 inches if bushy plants are desired. If you miss this step, when the plant is 2 to 3 feet tall, cut it back by about one-third to one-half. This helps the plant have a more compact and attractive appearance.

    Hardy hibiscus is one of the last perennials to emerge in the spring, sometimes as late as mid-June, so don’t get too concerned when it is slow to make its appearance. When the new shoots finally emerge, they take off and grow quickly. Hibiscus are water-tolerant and may be a good option for low, damp areas that stay moist, for areas near water features, or for rain gardens. They are dramatic and can be a beautiful accent plant, or to add interest to a perennial garden. When several are planted, they can serve as a hedge.

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