Red Heart Hardy HibiscusHibiscus syriacus ‘Red Heart’
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Hibiscus syriacus ‘Red Heart’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus puts on a stunning display of large blooms from late summer all through the fall. The big flowers are pure white, with a red center that radiates out with thin red lines. It blooms profusely, on a shrub that can be 10 feet tall or more if untrimmed, making it perfect for a lawn specimen, the back of shrub beds, as a flowering hedge, or in tubs or pots, where it will remain more compact. It thrives in city and country alike, and is invaluable for late color in every garden.
Grow the Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus in full sun for the best results, although some partial shade is tolerated well. Any well-drained soil, or all types, is fine, but avoid wet areas. Once established it is very drought tolerant, and it thrives in heat, humidity and tough locations. A spring pruning will keep it vigorous and compact, and since it blooms on new stems, any winter damage is unimportant. Pests, diseases and deer normally ignore this easy-care plant.
It is so important to have late blooming plants in your garden, if you are to get the most from it, and enjoy flowering shrubs for as long as possible. You certainly get that with the remarkable Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus, which begins to bloom in late summer in most areas and continues all through fall until the first hard frost. These are not just any blooms, either, but large open blossoms that look a lot like tropical hibiscus, but on plants that will grow in your garden even in zone 5. Every branch is packed with buds that open in succession, showing pure white blooms with a brilliant red center. This isn’t some sensitive plant, that needs special soil or lots of care – no, this is a tough, reliable bush that grows even in hot, dry areas – indeed, it blooms longer and more with plenty of sun and heat. In the garden or in pots, this heirloom bush is a modern winner.
The Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus is a medium-sized deciduous shrub that can grow to 10 or 12 feet tall if untrimmed, with a spread of 6 to 8 feet. The stiff upright branches create a vase-shaped form, or you can prune this bush into a tree-like form, with one or several main trunks. It is fast growing, blooming on the new stems of the year, and these carry glossy green leaves that are about 3 inches long. They have a triangular base and three lobes at the end, edged with irregular serrations. In late fall they turn yellow and drop to the ground, revealing gray bark with white markings on it.
The blooms are carried all along the stems. Each one opens for a day, but the clusters keep on coming and coming, so blooming lasts for many weeks. In zones 8 and 9 bushes may be in bloom by June, but in cooler zones flowering usually begins by August, and continues through the fall, unabated, until stopped by a hard frost. Round seed pods form after blooming. Each bloom is 4 to 6 inches across, like an open trumpet, with 5 pure-white petals. At the base of each petal is a deep-red blotch, radiating up the petal in thin lines along the veins. This creates a red heart to the bloom, a look which is simply ravishing.
For late blooming in the garden, even flowering among the vibrant leaves of fall, nothing can match the Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus. Use it in your shrub beds, or as a specimen on a lawn. Plant a row as a flowering screen, or grow it in pots to decorate your patio, terrace or balcony. Plants in pots are hardy outdoors through winter, although in zones 5 and 6 it is best to bury the pot in the ground or store the plants in a cold garage or shed.
The Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus can be grown from zone 5 all the way into zone 8 or 9. In zone 5 it may show some winter damage, but this is unimportant, since flowering is on new branches and replacement stems grow very quickly.
Grown in full sun the Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus will be compact, bushy and full of blooms. An hour or two of shade each day will make no difference, but too much shade will reduce blooming and vigor. This reliable plant will grow in any well-drained soil. Although it is best in richer, moist soils, it is also very drought resistant once established, and thrives almost anywhere without problems.
Pests, diseases and deer are all only rarely problems for the Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus, which thrives with very little attention. We recommend an annual pruning, in early spring, to control the size of your bush, and keep it vigorous and blooming well. In pots or in the garden, for the biggest possible flowers on a smaller bush, cut back the stems from the previous year to just 2 or 3 buds. For general garden growing, leave those stems about 12 inches long, and remove about one-third of the oldest branches at the base. You can also prune this tree into a single stem, although we don’t recommend this for zone 5, because of the risk of winter injury killing the crown of your tree.
A native of India, China and Korea, the hardy hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus, has been cultivated for centuries. It is the national flower of Korea, and there the flowers are eaten, and the leaves used for tea. At some point this plant made it way along the Silk Route to the west, arriving in Syria where it was widely grown in gardens. It was there that Europeans found it, and by the 16th century it was being grown in England as ‘Syrian ketmia’. Once it was realized it would grow in the garden it became very popular, and by the 18th century it had arrived in America, growing in colonial gardens and in the South. It remained very popular, and the number of color forms and varieties increased, all through the 19th century, but in the 20th it became less widely grown. Today gardeners have re-discovered its value and beauty, and it is enjoying a big revival. The variety called ‘Red Heart’ seems to have first been seen around 1973, and it was created by an unknown grower in France. Since then it has become the most widely-grown of the several varieties showing a red center.
The Royal Horticultural Society is an ancient and prestigious organization in Britain, and its coveted Awards of Garden Merit are a sign of the best plants for your garden. They gave that award to the Red Heart Hardy Hibiscus in 1993, so we know just how good this variety is. Always in high demand, we can’t guarantee it will be in stock for long, so order now – you won’t be disappointed.