Hibiscus and Lookalikes

Exotic Hibiscus flowers conjure up the romantic South Pacific islands.

Tropical Hibiscus has a special beauty.  The tall pistil is one of its characteristics.

However, they can be a pain to grow in hot, dry central Texas.  This one has been in a pot for years and is probably very root bound.  But, as long as it lives, it will be taken into a heated shed during the winter.  So, I guess it’s worth the trouble.

This is the same plant and is looking a little ragged in this especially dry summer.

Luckily, there are plants with that look that do extremely well here.  They endure the hot summers and some cold times in the winter.  Rose of Sharon or Althea shrubs (Hibiscus syriacus) become very large and are covered with these exquisite flowers.

Bees love them.

Their flower colors range from white to pink to deep lavender.

The bright red center of these flowers are striking.

Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) has small hibiscus like flowers.  They grow in dry rocky soils.  The flowers last one day, but with a little water, there will be more the next day.

Hardy Hibiscus is exactly what its name says.  It is a perennial that is tough and has the beauty of a delicate tropical flower.

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has a more unique look with its two color petals and long finger leaves.  But it still has that tall pistil.

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) provide the look of hibiscus, with a shorter pistil.  They stack up on a central stalk that branches out.

All of these plants come from the Mallow (Malvaceae) family.  There are 4225 known species.  These are very diverse because included with all these lovely flowers are okra, cotton, and cacao.  Only a botanist could understand the complications of plant orders.

But what I see is that all the flowers in this blog have tall pistils, where the male and female parts provide reproduction.  Also, the flower petals mostly have the same form.

Plus, all add beauty to gardens.  When the temperature is stagnant in the triple digits, hardy plants are a blessing.

“A garden is never so good as it will be next year.” –Thomas Cooper

Paper Thin Reds

Do you know a plant collector?  Or maybe, you are one.  That is the classification I fit into as a gardener.   It’s exciting to try new plants for the first time.  I’m always thrilled when they live and seem to be happy in my yard.

hibuscus5Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) have always fascinated me.  I always planned to get one.  There were some last year at our Garden Club’s plant sale, so I grabbed one.  Now in the heat it is blooming and blooming.

hibuscus4Love the whole look of it.

One of the best things about the hardy Hibiscus is that it will return in early summer after dying in the winter.  So it’s carefree.  A tropical Hibiscus, on the other hand, has to be hauled into a green house for the winter.

hibuscus7The flowers don’t appear here in zone 7b until mid summer.  Hardy Hibiscus adds a pop to the garden after spring flowers have died off.

backflowerbed2There were always old fashioned tall Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) in my grandmother’s garden.  I don’t know why this is the first time I’ve planted one.  This one was purchased at the Lady Bird Johnson Center spring sale of Texas natives.

hollyhock4These misshapen blooms are the result of grasshoppers.  At least, they haven’t stripped the plant, yet.

hollyhock2The brilliant color makes them a striking plant.  Although I’ve read that hollyhocks don’t bloom the first year, this one has.

hollyhock5Hollyhocks love full sun and can grow to be 8 feet tall.  With their large leaves, they occupy more space than I expected.  Since they reseed, eventually these will be too crowded.  More poor planning on my part.

The Hardy Hibiscus and the Hollyhock grow side by side.  It’s amazing how much their red blooms look alike.

pinkgauraTechnically, this is a Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri).  But the flowers look a little red, so I included it in this post.

Whenever I see lindheimeri in the botanical name of a plant, I picture the Texas botanist who discovered and cataloged so many plants.  He would go on foraying trips and bring back all these samples.  His wife would help him dry them and place them in paper to preserve them.  And paper was a valuable commodity at that time.

pinkgaura2Gauras are another one of those plants that sways softly in the wind.  The small flowers are on the tip of long stems.

pinkgaura3It’s necessary to look at the flowers up close to appreciate their delicate beauty.

The variety of flowering plants that will grow in this area alone is staggering.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrows, but only saps today of its strength.”  A. J. Cronin