Welcome back to Chesapeake Garden – my weekly blog about plants, gardening and the world around us. I promised to talk about plants this week so let’s get right to it. I would like to introduce all of you to one of my favorite native perennials, Hibiscus moscheutos. Hibiscus moscheutos or Rose Mallow grows locally on the margins of our wetlands and waterways. It is a member of the plant Family Malvaceae (or Mallow family). Other important members of the Mallow Family are Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum and others), Cacao (Theobroma cacao (cocoa and chocolate), Okra (probably Abelmoschus ficulneus (this plant has been it cultivation for so long its origin is not certain)) and Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis (yup, this is where Marshmallows originally came from!)).
Like all perennials this plant begins to emerge in late spring, grows to its full height, flowers in summer and dies back to the ground by winter. It blooms in summer with large pink, red or white flowers with a darker magenta center. While most of the wild Rose Mallows have flowers that are up to 6” in diameter, the cultivated varieties can have flowers that are 10”-12” in diameter. And while the native plants can reach heights of 6’ in a single season, most of the newer cultivars are bred to only grow to between 2.5’-4.5’ in height and may have multicolored flowers and even purple foliage.
That’s enough about what it looks like and who it’s related to. Let’s talk about using it in our gardens. Hibiscus moscheutos should be used anywhere where we have six or more hours of sunlight and plenty of moisture. Have a wet spot you can’t figure out? Use Rose Mallow. Pool water killing your plants? Use Rose Mallow because it doesn’t mind chlorine (or salt for that matter!). It’s great at the back of the perennial border and is a staple of Rain Gardens. It’s a wonderful native that everyone should know and use in their gardens.
Next time I want to talk to you about the Hardy Crape Myrtle trees and how one man’s work can effect great change. Talk to you then.