Hot-house flower right at home in Southeast Texas

hibiscus

Just look at that beautiful bloom! I can always count on my hibiscus to give me a jolt of color in the yard. Not only are they easy to grow, but they also tolerate our summer weather. And you say they are edible, too?

One fascinating website, hiddenvalleyhibiscus.com, had so much interesting information on hibiscus history that you may want to click on it. Did you know that there were eight hibiscus species that were ancestors to the modern hibiscus? Hibiscus rosa-sinensis was discovered in China and India and was brought back to Europe by explorers in the 1700s. Hibiscus lilliflorus is native to the east coast of Africa. Back in the 1700s, that area was a stopping point for ships sailing around the southern tip of Africa, so that tall, slender hibiscus was added to the mix. Other species were discovered in Hawaii and Fiji. If you like to read about the evolution of plants, this is a very interesting article.

Now, back to our own yards. … How do we best grow this beauty? Whether in a container or put directly into the ground, your hibiscus plants want full sun, rich and well-draining soil and regular fertilization. You can have the tropical flair of most hibiscuses all year, as long as temperatures stay above 32 degrees. Water them daily in the summer. They are really a thirsty plant. I’ve had the best luck fertilizing with a slow release fertilizer and then adding a diluted super-blooming liquid every week.

Look for hibiscus in pinks, oranges, whites, reds and blue-ish shades. This genus boasts several hundred species. Some are dwarf, which grow between 2-3 feet, and some are as tall as 8 feet. There are some varieties that can stand temperatures down to 20 degrees, but they are few and far between.

The blooms are big and luscious on the hibiscus for a day or so, but when they have served their purpose for pollination, they fall off the plant. The bloom is a lure for pollinators like bees and hummingbirds. Love your hibiscus plant? You can easily root another hibiscus from a plant that you have. Simply cut a branch that is about 4 inches long. Remove the leaves except for 4-5 leaves at the top. Dip into root powder (cheap and available even at garden centers) and plant into soil in a pot. Water and cover the pot with a large clear plastic bag and put into a shaded area until you see some growth. Then uncover and watch your new free plant grow.

Hibiscus Tea (Agua de Jamaica)

Put 4 cups water and 3/4 cups sugar into a saucepan with 1/2 cinnamon stick and a few slices of ginger (optional). Heat until boiling and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers. Cover and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Strain into pitcher and discard all but liquid. Add 4 more cups water or 4 cups ice. Add lime juice and chilled fizzing water (like Topo Chico) if you want a bubbly version. Serve with a slice of orange or lime.

Hibiscus tea is popular all around the world and is said to have natural diuretic powers and lots of Vitamin C.

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