Research station evaluating hardy hibiscus

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.

News Release Distributed 07/05/13

By Allen Owings
, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – The LSU AgCenter has implemented a landscape evaluation trial of more than 40 varieties of hardy hibiscus, primarily Hibiscus moscheutos, at the Hammond Research Station. These are what we typically refer to as the dinner plate hibiscus. They sometimes go by the old variety name, Disco Belle.

The Louisiana Society for Horticultural Research based in Lafayette is partially funding this effort.

The project includes a field planting of varieties from the hibiscus breeding program at Walters Gardens. Some of their hibiscus are in the Summerific Hibiscus program at Proven Winners. These include varieties such as Berrylicous, My Valentine, Pink Elephant, Jazzberry Jam, Party Favor, Midnight Marvel, Cranberry Crush, Tie Dye, Summer Storm and Sultry Kiss.

In addition, we’re also studying four colors in the Luna seeded line of perennial-type hibiscus from PanAmerican Seed. Flower colors include red, rose, white, pink and pink swirl. The Luna series has been on the market for a number of years now and provides growers with a seed source option, as opposed to the majority of plant material in this group that are available only by vegetative propagation.

Industry-standard varieties – such as the popular Flare series, Moy Grande, Texas Star red hibiscus, Lord Baltimore and Lady Baltimore – are included in the study. We are also planting the Red River variety that is gaining in popularity in Texas for large red blooms.

We collect data on factors important in determining hardy hibiscus most-suited for landscape performance in Louisiana. We look at date of first bloom, length of bloom, length of peak bloom, plant height, flower diameter, susceptibility to saw fly larvae damage and more. Some of the plants in our AgCenter trial are also being evaluated by horticulturist Geoff Denny at Mississippi State University in Starkville.

A companion demonstration-only study includes more than 20 of the newest hardy hibiscus from Fleming Flower Fields. These plants are known for the first reddish and purple foliage colors; maple-, palm- and hydrangea-shaped leaves, and improved compactness.

The AgCenter is also evaluating other hibiscus and hibiscus relatives.

The Hibiscus acetosella, commonly referred to as false roselle and African rose mallow, are great foliage plants for the summer and fall landscape. When planted in spring, plants can easily reach heights of 5 feet or more by fall. Pruning them every month or so for the first couple months after planting will produce a bushy, slightly more compact plant. Several varieties on the market include Maple Sugar, Panama Red, Haight Ashbury and Red Shield.

New a couple years ago, Mahogany Splendor from PanAmerican Seed is part of their Fantastic Foliage program. Mahogany Splendor has bronze foliage in some seasons and under some light conditions.

Most of the Hibiscus acetosella have reddish foliage. The Haight Ashbury variety has multiple foliage shades of cream, pink and burgundy. Panama Red has deeply cut foliage that is rich carmine red.

A new variety released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service is Sahara Sunset. These plants produce red flowers during short daylength in late fall and winter in Louisiana. Plants need full sun and have great drought tolerance, so they need minimum irrigation. Plants have upright growth and should be spaced a minimum of 3 feet apart. They also are deer resistant.

New tropical hibiscus, such as the Tradewinds series and the HibisKISS group, are exciting new additions to these great plants that love the Louisiana climate. Many home gardeners in Louisiana continue also to enjoy the Cajun group of tropical hibiscus that are marketed wholesale in Louisiana by Dupont Nursery in Plaquemine.

Althea, rose of Sharon, also is a perennial hibiscus relative that is an old garden plant with renewed interest.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren
7/5/2013 11:11:21 PM
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