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July Flora Spotlight:
Hibiscus

Hibiscus moscheutos

Hibiscus moscheutos is a species of herbaceous perennial hibiscus that is often called swamp rose mallow, hardy hibiscus or crimson-eyed rose mallow. This native wildflower with large beautiful flowers is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub that will grow up to 7 ft tall and does best in full sun. It reliably flowers from the middle of summer to the first frost. The top growth dies back and completely regenerates by late spring or early summer. 

This is an easy-to-care for plant in the landscape. Swamp rose mallow, as the name implies, prefers moist soil so plant in a low damp place, near a stream or other water feature where it will thrive. It also does well in a container if kept watered and well fed. To encourage re-bloom, either remove old flowers before they form seed heads or prune plants back by one third after a flush of bloom is finished. In pond areas frogs, small mammals, birds, and insects use the plant for cover. Many birds feed on the seeds. Hummingbirds and bumble bees visit the flowers for the nectar.

This hibiscus is easy to propagate by several methods making them a common "pass along" plant. Cuttings can be rooted any time that new growth is available, although rooting is usually quickest in spring. Start with a stem the width of a pencil, five to six inches long of firm new growth. Strip off lower leaves and insert the cutting in a mix of three parts sand and one part peat moss. Roots should form within four to five weeks. Once roots are formed plants can be moved into a larger container or transplanted to a permanent location.

Seeds can be sown indoors 12 weeks before the last spring frost. Soak seeds in very warm water for one hour before sowing. Seeds can also be sown in place outdoors after the last expected frost date. Collect seeds for fall sowing once the papery seed capsules brown and start to split. Plants often bloom from seed in the first year and will self seed in suitable soil conditions. The plant can also be propagated by dividing in the spring.

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