Cherry Choco Latte Summerific Hibiscus

August is prime time to appreciate the many varietals of perennial hibiscus

Garden centers should be well-stocked with stunning cultivars of this North American native that boasts big, bright, summer blooms.

  • By Steve Smith Special to the Herald
  • Friday, August 5, 2022 1:30am
  • LifeColumnist

Every year during the first full week of August, the horticultural marketing firm of Proven Winners conducts their Summerific® Week celebrating the perennial hibiscus moscheutos and its many cultivars.

You can follow posts on Instagram with #SUMMERIFICWEEK, and there are even prizes to be had for various categories.

It’s a great marketing program to help inform gardeners of the value of this incredibly durable North American native that can sport blooms the size of your face in late summer when lots of other plants have pooped out. But first, here’s a quick review of the genus hibiscus.

Perennial hibiscus, like most all perennials, wakes up in the spring (in this case usually very late, sometimes not until June even), and grows rapidly, coming into bloom in late summer with 9-inch flowers, and then of course dies back and goes dormant for the winter.

Shrubby Hibiscus is a woody plant from China known around our parts as Rose of Sharon. It can grow 6 to 12 feet tall, and it blooms later in the summer with smaller 3- to 4-inch flowers.

Tropical hibiscus are also shrubs but unfortunately they are not winter hardy in our part of the world. Grow them as summer “annuals” and, if you like, bring them in as a house plant for the winter.

Getting back to the perennial hibiscus: For years, the only varieties available to gardeners were Lord or Lady Baltimore, two 6- to 8-foot-tall gawky forms that only sent up 2 to 3 shoots and usually lost most of their leaves by the time they bloomed in late August, or sometimes not until September. They were homely, to say the least, and a tough sell for garden centers.

All that changed with the breeding work of Walters Gardens and the marketing genius of the Summerific® brand from Proven Winners. These new introductions grow into a multi-branched plant that tops out at around 4 inches wide by 4 inches tall and is absolutely covered from head to toe with nonstop blooms all through late summer. Many of these new guys also have attractive dark black foliage that provides a stunning contrast to the flowers.

To successfully grow these perennial hibiscus, two elements are critical: full sun and constant moisture. They need the heat to both warm up the soil to wake them up in the spring and to support their rampant (at least an inch per day) growth in the summer.

In the wild, they grow in wet or even boggy areas, so constant moisture is in their DNA. Don’t let them dry out or the foliage will burn and they will abort their flowers.

They can tolerate flooding in the winter so if you have a “rain garden,” try some in the bottom for a summer accent. And don’t forget, they wake up late, so don’t give them up for dead.

August is prime time to view and purchase these stunning perennials and most garden centers should be well stocked. We actually have a dozen different flavors to choose from. Here are a few to consider:

‘Ballet Slippers’: Huge 7-inch ruffled flowers are white with a deep red eye, with petals that are edged with blush pink. These feminine flowers are produced all over the polished, upright, shrub-like clump of bright green foliage.

‘Candy Crush’: Huge 8-inch bright bubblegum pink flowers with a near-black, dark red eye are produced all over the upright columnar habit of rich, bright green leaves.

‘Cherry Choco Latte’: Very large 8-inch to 9-inch flowers are white with deep pink veining and a notably large eye. Attractive dark olive-green foliage forms a compact airy clump.

‘Evening Rose’: Huge 8-inch puckered hot pink flowers cover a round, dense habit of near black foliage. A must-have statement piece for your garden!

‘French Vanilla’: Huge 7-inch to 8-inch creamy custard yellow ruffled flowers. Deep green leaves form a compact habit.

‘Holy Grail’: This is truly a special hardy hibiscus. Incredibly dark, near-black foliage hold 8-inch to 9-inch deep red flowers.

‘Airbrush Effect’: 8-inch to 8½-inch vibrant pink flowers with salmon tones have an airbrushed central white halo and a small dark red eye.

‘Blackberry Merlot’: 8-inch rich, deep velvety red flowers are produced above a tight, upright habit of deep green leaves.

‘Starry Starry Night’: Incredibly dark, near-black, broad, maple-like leaves form an upright clump in the landscape. Interesting 7-inch to 8-inch flowers are pale pink with darker pink speckling and veining.

Despite the recent heat and perhaps some “gardening fatigue,” August is still a great month to plant and introduce new gems into our landscapes. If you are looking for that illusive year-round interest that so many of us covet in our gardens, you have to consider perennial hibiscus. This is quite possibly the only time of year you will find them in the garden center. Carpe Diem!

Steve Smith represents Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com

Talk to us

More in Life

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

An easy one-mile loop near the visitor center at Seaquest State Park explores the edge of Silver Lake.
(Scott Hewitt/The Columbian)
Discover seven hidden gems not far from the super slab

Weekend trips: Next time you’re making the I-5 slog toward Oregon, check out some of these parks and preserves just off the freeway corridor.

Caption: Now’s a great time to stock up on free Covid tests available to Washington State residents at: https://sayyescovidhometest.org.
COVID-19’s behind her except for a nagging cough

But things might have been much different — in a bad way — without testing and vaccines.

The blended-families challenge requires patience, maturity

Don’t expect miracles — it can be rough going for some time. Get professional help if you need it.

Her Turo rental was repossessed with valuable items inside

When Michelle Marshall’s Turo rental gets repossessed, the car-sharing company offers her a partial refund. But what about her son’s expensive epilepsy medication? Is Turo responsible for that?

Lee Oskar and his dog Tex inside his art studio in his home on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Harmonica whiz Lee Oskar is also a pro with a paintbrush

Oskar’s music and art studios are in his Everett home. The former member of the 1970s band War is now 74, and still rocks “Low Rider.”

The 2022 WM Recycle Corps interns are part of WM’s recycling education and outreach team.
WM Recycle Corps interns return after two-year COVID slowdown

The collegiate interns are back in the community to help improve recycling habits and reduce waste.

Caption: At Flight Room in Lynnwood, aerial fitness poses like “vampire” use every muscle in your body.
Fitness takes flight at new aerial studio in Lynnwood

Jennifer Bardsley finds benefits and “silk kisses” from doing aerial yoga at Lynnwood studio.

Photo Caption: This carved shelf brought $2,500 at New Haven Auctions. Decorations and symbols associated with the Odd Fellows add to its appeal.
Odd Fellows iconography adds to this carved shelf’s value

Fun fact: The Odd Fellows is believed to have originated in medieval trade guilds, with “odd fellow” meaning someone who did odd jobs for a living.

The Limelight Prime Panicle Hydrangea. (Proven Winners)
3 new “pee gee” hydrangeas for gardeners to salivate over

These new shrubs boast better flower color and, in some cases, more compact forms that fit better in smaller gardens.