Purple Pillar HibiscusHibiscus syriacus 'Gandini Santiago' (PP# 25,568)
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Hibiscus syriacus 'Gandini Santiago' (PP# 25,568)
Outdoor Growing zone
The Purple Pillar® Hardy Hibiscus is a very special Rose of Sharon, forming a tall vertical bush, 15 feet tall in just a few years, but just 3 feet wide. From June to November it blooms continuously, covered with 4-inch light purple blooms with a glowing dark-red center. Some blooms will be semi-double, especially early in the season. It’s a unique accent specimen, or a screen for privacy in the narrowest space.
The Purple Pillar® Hardy Hibiscus will grow and bloom best in full sun, and it is hardy in zone 5, but won’t grow quite as tall. Any well-drained soil suits it, even poor urban soils and sandy ground. Pests, diseases and deer generally leave it alone, and it needs no pruning or trimming to keep its narrow vertical form. It is drought resistant, although a deep soak in the driest parts of summer is always beneficial.
One of the most eye-catching garden features is the slender green column. We are used to seeing it in evergreens, with narrow junipers, for example. There are others too, from columnar oaks and ginkgo trees to boxwoods, but columns of flowers are much rarer, unless you carefully train a climbing rose, or a vine. That’s why everyone greeted with pleasure and amazement the arrival of the Purple Pillar® Hardy Hibiscus. Often called Rose of Sharon by many gardeners, these colorful shrubs have been garden favorites for hundreds of years, but they are all rounded bushes, often even wider than they are tall. Not the Purple Pillar® Hardy Hibiscus. This amazing bush will shoot up to 6 feet, then 10 feet, and even to over 15 feet tall, yet it stays incredibly slim – and it does it without any training, trimming or needing support. The strong stems almost never branch out sideways, but they develop short spurs that carry bloom after bloom after bloom, a wonderful violet-pink with a big purple-red eye. It blooms for months and it really is a show-stopper, yet just as easy to grow as any Rose of Sharon – and that’s easy.
The Purple Pillar Hardy Hibiscus is a unique deciduous shrub that grows rapidly, soon reaching 6 feet tall, while just a foot wide. The branches grow straight up, with almost no side branching. Within just a few years it will be very tall, even over 15 feet, making a fully, bushy, and incredibly slim pyramid. At the base it will be no more than 3 feet wide. The small leaves are less than 3 inches long, a little leathery, with a smooth, glossy, rich-green surface.
In the warmest parts of the country blooming can begin in June, and a few weeks later in cooler areas. Once it starts it goes on and on without a rest, until the first hard frost – perhaps in November – brings it to an end. Each bloom lasts up to 4 days, and new ones keep opening, without a pause, making a column of blooms you won’t believe. The blooms are large, a full 4 inches across, shaped like a shallow bowl, in a beautiful shade of violet-pink – a light purple. The center of the flower is a rich purple-red, with rays like the sun radiating out into the purple. The first flowers have a dense center made up of many small twisted petals, forming a beautiful semi-double flower, and partly obscuring the central blotch. Later in the season the blooms become single, with a long central column of pollen-bearing stamens, like the traditional Rose of Sharon bloom – just as beautiful, and you get two types of blooms on the same bush. No seeds are produced, so the blooms just fall off cleanly when they are over, and none of the plant’s energy is wasted in seed production, so blooming never stops.
A unique bush like this deserves a show-case spot in the garden. Catch everyone’s attention growing it between the windows of your house, or between rounded shrubs. Grow it at the corner of a patio, on either side of a door or gate, or plant a row along a fence, where it gives lots of height, but takes almost no width. This is also a great pot-plant, growing well, if not quite as tall. It can be enjoyed even on a small balcony.
The Purple Pillar Hardy Hibiscus is very cold resistant, growing well even in zone 5, although there it may be shortened back a little by winter cold, but it won’t die. It grows especially well in hot, dry zones, all the way into zone 9.
Although an hour of two of shade each day will do no harm, plant your Purple Pillar Hardy Hibiscus in full sun for the best results. Avoid shady places, and wet soil. This plant grows best in well-drained soils, enjoying even poor urban soils, sandy soil, urban air pollution and even some salt spray from the ocean. Once established it is very drought resistant.
It is very easy to grow this spectacular plant. Pests and diseases never seem to cause any serious problems, and deer usually won’t eat it. While incredibly drought resistant, a deep soaking from time to time in the heat of summer will do wonders for blooming and growth. Some spring fertilizer will push it to the maximum height, and an organic mulch over the roots, especially in hot areas, would be beneficial. You don’t need to prune, in fact that would reduce it’s height, but taking the top few inches off the stems in early spring will encourage strong stems. Don’t trim in summer – this can reduce flowering.
Andres Santiago had a plant nursery in Spain. In 2002 he was working among his plants when he spotted something odd among a row of seedling hardy hibiscus he was growing. It has lovely light-purple flowers, and was absolutely straight and slender. Sadly his nursery went out of business, but not before he had sent some cuttings of this strange plant to Francesco Gandini, a friend in Italy. A few years later a Dutch couple, Ad and Marinus van Aart, were visiting Italy and went to see Francesco’s nursery. There he found he was using this plant to make the tall stems needed to grow ordinary hardy hibiscus as trees. Marinus and Ad saw something very different in this plant, and took some pieces back to their nursery in Oudenbosch, The Netherlands. They named it after the man who found it, ‘Gandini Santiago’. In Europe it is sold as ‘Flower Power Purple’, but in America it was patented in 2015 and it is sold by Spring Meadow Nursery, Inc. of Grand Haven Michigan as Purple Pillar®, a trademarked name, and part of their Proven Winners® selection of exciting new plants.
One of the world’s biggest plant events is Plantarium, held in the Netherlands every year. In 2016 the Purple Pillar Hardy Hibiscus won a Silver Medal, a tribute to its novelty, and what a great plant it is. Now you can grow it too, but order right now, because these plants are flying out the gate, right to other lucky gardeners.