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End of Summer notes, time to moved houseplants indoors

This Hibiscus plant flourishes in the yard of Ella Richards, West Fargo gardener. Submitted photo

Although the days have been hot and summer-like, we know that it will not last. Even though the shortening days heat up to the 80’s the nights cool down significantly and are much longer. Now is the time to bring in the potted tropical plants and houseplants that have been summering outside.

Once you bring them in try to isolate them from your other houseplants for a few weeks. Check them carefully for insects and treat them with insecticidal soap if necessary. I usually give my plants a good shower with the hose before I bring them inside. Place the plants in your most sunny indoor location until they begin to adjust to the lower light level. You may have to do some pruning to fit it into its winter home, but don’t worry about dropping leaves as they will be replaced when the plant adjusts.

One plant that I will have to bring inside is the new Hibiscus that I bought this summer. This is a tropical variety and cannot tolerate temperatures in the 30’s.

Hibiscus are very dramatic plants in the garden. They have large trumpet shaped flowers with five or more petals. Some plants may have plate-sized blooms in white, pink, rose, red, orange or yellow shades. The flowers seldom last more than a day, but new ones open each day so that the bloom time lasts several weeks.

There are hundreds of varieties of Hibiscus, which belong to the mallow family, but most are divided into two types, tropical or hardy.

Tropical Hibiscus comes from the warm areas of the world, where some can grow to tree size. Hawaiian leis are made with Hibiscus blooms. Most tropical Hibiscus varieties originate from the Chinese Hibiscus or H. rosa-sinensis. The leaves on the tropical varieties remain green year round and continually shed a few leaves at a time.

Hardy or perennials Hibiscus (Rose Mallow) are hybrids from the species H. moscheutos or H. coccineus (less hardy). These species come from colder areas of the world and do not grow well in hot dry areas. They are native to southern North America and bogs in the Eastern U.S. Hardy Hibiscus die to the ground each winter and come up in late spring. They bloom in late summer, with the peak in August, and after that the flowers get smaller until frost.

Hibiscus need plenty of water and space. They can grow from 4 feet to 10 feet tall and can be 3 feet to 5 feet wide. Most Hibiscus are hardy in zones 5 and 6 or higher, but we can grow them here with some care.

West Fargo gardener, Ella Richards received two Hibiscus as a mother’s day gift last year. She planted them on the east side of her house and this summer they grew to about 5 feet tall. They have been profusely blooming with large white flowers. Last fall she cut them down to two inches and covered them with bags of leaves. She removed the leaves the first of May to allow the area to warm up. Hibiscus are slow to start in the spring.

The densely leaved plants of Hibiscus are sturdy and rarely need staking. They grow best in very moist well-drained soil with a lot of organic matter. Full sun is best but they will tolerate light shade. Some named selections include red ‘Lord Baltimore’, pink ‘Lady Baltimore’ and assorted colors of ‘Southern Belle’ and two-foot tall ‘Disco Belle’.

Be sure to keep your Hibiscus as well as your other valuable perennials, shrubs and trees well watered so that they can survive the winter. Our area seems to be in a drought situation, but hopefully we will get some soaking rains before freeze up.

- Mary Jane Breitling