Double Red Hardy HibiscusHibiscus syriacus ‘Amplissimus’
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Hibiscus syriacus ‘Amplissimus’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Double Red Hardy Hibiscus is a deciduous shrub with stunning fully-double blooms that look like red-purple peony flowers. It grows 6 to 10 feet tall, with a narrow, upright form no more than 5 feet wide. The rich-green glossy foliage is always attractive, and a profuse display of blooms begins in summer and continues into fall. Grow it in garden beds or large tubs, and this tough and reliable plant is a perfect follow-on to crape myrtles, which enjoy similar growing conditions.
Full sun is perfect for the Double Red Hardy Hibiscus, but it will take a little partial shade as well. It grows in any well-drained soil, preferring rich soils with regular watering, but thriving anyway even in heat and drought. It only takes a simple spring pruning to keep it neat and blooming for months, and pests or diseases are almost never a problem. Even deer leave it alone, and it resists urban conditions and coastal salt as well.
The hardy hibiscus is also known as the Rose of Sharon, and like true roses it comes in forms with single flowers, but also in rarer forms with amazing double flowers. A double helping of ‘good’ has to be ‘great’, and that’s how it is with the Double Red Hardy Hibiscus. Its big pom-poms of bright red-purple petals grow all along the stems of this reliable bush, looking like peony flowers, and they make a wonderful display all through late summer and into fall. If you are looking for easy-to-grow plants that deliver blooms when most other bushes have stopped flowering, then you can’t ignore hardy hibiscus. For reliable blooming with very little attention, they can’t be beaten, and for something really different, the Double Red Hardy Hibiscus will rival rose bushes (and be a fraction of the work).
The Double Red Hardy hibiscus is a medium-sized deciduous shrub with upright branches, growing quickly into a dense bush. The smooth gray bark is attractive in winter, and it isn’t long in spring before the glossy leaves emerge. They are about 3 inches long, with a leathery texture and a rich, dark-green color. They have a triangular tapering base, and the end is divided into 3 large lobes, edged with irregular serrations. The leaves turn golden yellow in fall. This fast-growing shrub will reach 8 to 10 feet tall in warm areas, and about 6 feet in cooler zones. It has a narrow profile, usually staying no more than 5 feet wide. With pruning it can be kept smaller, and it can also be trained up into a tree form.
Blooming starts by mid-summer in most regions, and sometimes as early as June. Clusters of buds develop all along the stems, so flowers are carried all over the bush, not just at the top. Flowering continues well into fall, making this one of the longest blooming shrubs available. This variety is very special, because it doesn’t have the trumpet-shaped blooms of most hardy hibiscus. Instead the flowers look like peonies, forming a round ball of petals 3 to 5 inches across. You could easily mistake it for an exotic rose, and its rich purple-red coloring stands out against the dark green leaves. The outer petals are broad and flat, while the inner ones are narrower, and often twisted and curled. You will be amazed at the unique beauty of this plant.
With its special look the Double Red Hardy Hibiscus is worthy of a special place in your garden. Grow it as a specimen on the lawn, or as the center-piece of a bed. Plant it beside your door, or along a path where it can be admired up-close. Allowed to reach its full height it is perfect at the back of your shrub beds, and it can be grown as a hedge or screen. It is also perfect in large tubs on your patio or terrace.
From zone 5 into zone 9 you can grow the Double Red Hardy Hibiscus. Any winter damage in zone 5 will be quickly replaced with vigorous new stems, and since flowers form on new stems it will still bloom prolifically. It enjoys the heat of warm zones, making it a great choice in Texas and the South.
Full sun is best for the Double Red Hardy Hibiscus, but it will still grow well with a couple of hours of shade each day. It grows in any well-drained soil, blooming best and longest in richer soils with regular watering, but also tolerating those difficult spots that are very hot and dry. It grows in city conditions too, and tolerates some salt spray as well, so it is a good choice for coastal gardens.
This is not a plant you have to wait for, because it will take off and grow fast as soon as you plant it, blooming even at an early age. Pests and diseases are rarely problems, and deer usually leave it alone. Early spring is the time to prune, before the new leaves appear. For the biggest blooms, trim back stems from the previous year to just 2 or 3 buds. Enormous blooms will soon appear, and this is a good way to grow it as a smaller bush in planters. In the garden trim back young stems to about 12 inches long and remove about one-third of the oldest branches at the base. This encourages lots of vigorous new stems to sprout up. Some general fertilizer in spring is beneficial, and occasional deep soaking during dry weather will keep it blooming steadily.
The hardy hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus, was carried along the ancient Silk Route from its natural home in China centuries ago. Europeans first discovered it in Syria, and it was certainly being grown in England in the 16th century. It is described and illustrated in the famous Herbal written by John Gerard, which appeared in 1597. It was brought to America early, and grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello in 1794. It was immensely popular and featured in the catalogues of southern nurseries, who offered many different varieties. By the early 19th century the first double forms began to appear.
Hardy Hibiscus have been popular in France for centuries too, and it was planted in profusion at Versailles, the palace of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The French collected and bred many unusual varieties, and among them was the Double Red Hardy Hibiscus. We don’t know exactly where it came from, but it was first described officially by the French botanist Léon François Gagnepain in 1861, as a botanical variety he called amplissimus. We can assume it was discovered somewhere in France before that time, making this a true heirloom plant.
Growing the Double Red Hardy Hibiscus is like having peonies in fall. Its unique blooms make this a very special plant, and it is always in great demand. We tracked down some beautiful plants, and we would love to ship them to you, but we recommend that you order now, because who knows when we will find this rare shrub again, once our stock is gone?