A fairytale flower

If magic exists, then our children have a monopoly on it. Take the day my daughter appeared in the kitchen with an upturned hibiscus blossom on her head.

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Instant magic! She came demanding a spoon for the mixing of flower petals into pixie dust. My son joined her with the understanding that they would play Legos after they learned how to fly.

Hibiscus moscheutos, also known as rose mallow or marsh mallow hibiscus, is native to our region and a favorite among gardeners as well as aspiring fairies. This magical perennial blooms in white to deep rose with a center of maroon. In true fairytale fashion, each flower lasts only a day. Flowers can grow up to eight inches across (fit for a giant’s garden!) and bloom from mid-summer to fall.

Hummingbirds, butterflies, and other nectar feeders are attracted to hibiscus. In nature, Hibiscus moscheutos thrives in moist areas, such as brackish marshes, swamps, and lakesides. In the garden, they should be planted in warm, sunny areas with moisture-retentive soil.

Some gardeners, like my grandfather, prefer to plant their hibiscus in a container. A less than magical childhood memory involves helping him lug his mammoth-sized potted hibiscus into the basement each fall. Fortunately, the rose mallow hibiscus is hardy enough to withstand a cold winter. Its blackened stalks can be cut to the ground after the first hard frost; new growth will emerge in spring.

To add a bit of magic to your garden, be sure to visit the Arboretum’s Native Plant Nursery for its Fall Open House, where the enchanting Hibiscus x ‘Kopper King’ will reign among the perennials.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

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