« PREV Image 1 of 3 NEXT »

The crazy color combinations of Tropical Hibiscus '5th Dimension' from our friend Winn Soldani at Fancy Hibiscus

Fleming Fanatics

This is Fleming's Flower Fields online Newsletter dedicated to teaching the public about our Hardy Hibiscus, Crapemyrtle and other fine perennials

Fleming Fanatics is an interactive, quarterly newsletter.  Here at Fleming's, the home gardener, landscaper and garden center are our focus and we would like your feedback, photos and any input you may have.  We have dedicated this site and this page to using our 65 years of hardy Hibiscus and perennial flower breeding experience for educating our flower friends about all the issues we can think of concerning our hybrids.  We are starting this first official newsletter with a discussionon the difference between Hardy Hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos versus Tropical Hibiscus, Rosa senensis.  We will also have follow-up newsletters dealing with Plant Patents, the Health Benefits of hardy Hibiscus, Ethics in the Garden Industry, and more.  Feel free to suggest a topic or send us an article to share.. With a garden market now flooded with every version of every perennial possible, it is good to have some perspective of what makes a plant worthy for your garden and your dineros.

Hardy Hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos -VS- Tropical Hibiscus, Rosa senensis:

Every once in a while someone will call who isn't as familar with Hibiscus and wants to order one ...  And sometimes maybe because they live in a zone 10 or higher or maybe it's the sound of their voice I ask,  "Are you looking for a tropical or hardy, perennial Hibiscus?  Usually they will answer "one that stays green all year".  Then I reply, "then you are looking for a tropical".  And finally comes the inevitable, "I don't know".  Since Hardy or Perennial Hibiscus are quickly becoming a popular garden choice, the differences in the 2 main groups of commonly sold Hibiscus are needing explaination.  Like most questions, we probably already know the answer, but think that it must be more complex than our green instinct.

Tropical Hibiscus species are widely referred to as Hibiscus Rosa senensis, even though this group of species is quite vast and contains many different hibiscus species.  But, they all have woody stems and ever-green leaves year round if you live in a zone 10 or higher.   For the rest of us in colder zones, we must dig them up and bring them in for the winter.   They have their origins in Hawaii, Asia, and the pacific islands down to Australia and they grow to tree size in these places.  We have all grown up seeing the common, less hybridized or less- fancy versions at the grocery store, whether we noticed them or not.  They are always there, in red, pink, white and sometimes yellow, with more modest sized flowers of  5" at most with nice bumpy, glossy, green leaves.  But there are more exotic tropicals that have been hybridized having bigger 8" flowers and multiple colors not found in the original one tone flowers or in the hardy cousins making them more vibrant and sought after.  Some of these classic hybrids that have stood the test of time and are continually copied by "hybridizers" are '5th Dimension' with an ample orange and purple flower, or 'The Path' with it's big yellow and pink flowers.  Sometimes these are sold as grafted plants;one Tropical onto another tougher tropical hibiscus rootstock giving them more resistance to cold and pests. We are biased and love the hybrid tropicals and believe everyone should have at least one in their garden or sunporch.. but keep a sunny inside area or plant light handy for the tropicals in the colder regions as they CAN'T SURVIVE UNDER 45°!  Isn't that a Sammy Hagar song?  Tell you what, if you want to talk to the real Tropcial Hibiscus Guru in the industry, then contact Winn Soldani at Fancy Hibiscus, www.fancyhibiscus.com. 800-432-8332.  He can answer any question under the sun and most importantly, he has the best Tropical Hibiscus available.  Like the Flemings, we are lucky to have someone as knowledgeable and kind as Winn in the garden world!

Now that I've refreshed your memory about "Tropical" Hibiscus let's talk about another group of species of Hibiscus called "Hardy" Hibiscus.  Hardy meaning that the roots can survive to a certain temperature. In their natural state the Hardy Hibiscus is a rather large and unrefined looking plant.  The flowers are of adequate size ranging from 3-6" but are not overlapping.  Like the "Tropicals" they are made up of many different species but are commonly lumped under one family, Hibiscus moscheutos.  Native to the midwest, east and southeastern U.S. they have been in our natural landscapes for years but has not gained much in popularity.  Being perennials they are not evergreen, they lose their leaves and the branches die back with the coming of winter and resprout from the ground the following spring.  In the wild their flower colors include white, red and pink alot like their Tropical cousins.  Their foliage was nothing special being green and shaggy in appearance it looked rather weedy.    The already sizable flowers and natural hardiness were both attractions for hybridizers to try and improve on these native species.  The most notable early Hardy Hibiscus hybrids were "Lord Baltimore", having big 10-11" red flowers, it still remained a large specimen at 6-8'.  Then there is "Disco Belles" with their pure white flowers and shorter stature it was an improvement from the wild but still lacked the hardiness factor that was sought after.  It wasn't until the Fleming brothers of Lincoln, Nebraska began to focus on this species that they really came to life.  Now after years of hybridizing, selecting and testing Fleming's Flower Fields has emerged as the leader in Hardy Hibiscus. The futuristic hybridizing efforts of the Fleming brothers, started in the 1950's, has brought Hardy hibiscus to it's pinnacle with improvements to hardiness (all Fleming Hybrids are hardy to -30° F), growth habit (they reduced the size to a more landscape friendly 4' and under), flower colors and size ( adding 10-12" yellow and purple flowers to the pallette) and adding a brand new component of brilliantly colored foliage (Copper-red and Purple) like that of 'Kopper King' and 'Royal Gems', making them a striking plant even without the flowers that are to come. The brothers also worked on drought and flood tolerance as well as pest resistance so you have less pest problems and hassle than the with most tropical varieties.  They are actually quite adaptable to all zones, like the zone 9 where our new Fleming's Flower Fields propagation nursery is located, in CA, which makes them an ideal candidate for almost any garden. Jim, Bob and Dave fullfilled their dreams of taking Hardy Hibiscus from the occasionally tall, shaggy plant with large flowers near the barn, to a colorful and manageable, glory to behold in your landscape by creating solid red and purple leaves, large new colored flowers of lavendar or pale yellow and compact stature of 4' and under all tackled with years and years of exhausting work. Although for most of the U.S. the hardies have a lot more pros vs cons we love the tropical varieties and think they are both spectacular plants that will brighten your day, like it or not.

Fleming trademark purple leaves of 'Royal Gems' Hardy Hibiscus

Fleming trademark purple leaves of 'Royal Gems' Hardy Hibiscus