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All in the family for wax and rose mallow

August 2, 2013
By H.I. Jean Shields - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The striking large swamp hibiscus and turk's cap are both in the Malvaceae family. They both produce bright red blooms, are native, and love to have wet feet. They are both hardy perennial plants.

Swamp hibiscus, Hibiscus Coccineus, grows tall and has a large, five-peteled blossom at the top of each sturdy stem. Each large bloom lasts one day. However there is always another one ready to bloom for the next day.

It is very hardy as long as it is in a damp location. The bright green palmate leaves are similar to the cannabis saliva plant. As long as there is a bloom or two on the plants, no one will be calling the police.

They like full sun to light shade, and may grow to 6 feet with about a 2-foot leafy spread. This is not a tightly formed bush. It tolerates the heat and the Florida humidity well. Excellent in a rain garden or around a pond edge.

The blooms are tall enough and bright enough to be seen from across the yard and do not need a lot of fussing to thrive. Bloom time is June through September. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

You may recognize it as, scarlet rose mallow, they will die back in fall or you can go ahead and trim them back after September blooming. Pinching the tender tips when they are about 2 feet tall in the spring will help the plant to branch out.

You can propagate by seeds, collected from old blooms, or by root division in early spring. The seed method will only work if the seeds are punctured by a pin or scraped to roughen before planting in shallow soil.

The usual garden pests are white flies, aphids or scale. When healthy they are not bothered much. When they get really tall, then you may want to stake them. When a big wind comes along unexpectedly and bends them back, you can always just trim them back.

The turk's cap is also a sturdy flowering plant, also of the hibiscus family. Their specific name, arboreus, refers to the tree like appearance of the mature plant.

The common names of this sister plant are wax mallow, turk's turban, ladies purse or even Scotchman's purse.

The small bright red fez shaped flowers also attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

This is a deciduous plant, which will flower in the shade and tolerate morning sun. The red flowers bloom during the summer with red fruit resembling rose hips in the late summer. The flowers attract the wildlife and the fruit and the flowers can be made into a tea. The pulpy fruit can be boiled down to make a jelly, or syrup.

Sorry, no recipes.

It grows about 6 to 8 feet if not trimmed, and may spread more than necessary for a shrub. The usual width will be between 5 and 8 feet. You can cut it back when it sheds its leaves in the fall, or just enjoy it bare. It comes back nicely in the spring.

No real problems, maybe some grasshoppers or a leaf-chewing caterpillar. This shrub will not have many problems that can't be washed off with a stream of water.

These two flowering types are a good choice and do not seem to be planted enough. Sometimes we are always looking for the latest plants and shrubs and forget the old easy gardening offerings.

I do not have either of these plants and I would not have even remembered them until I went to the recent Native Plant Sale at Rotary Park. I was admiring the bright red blooms of a turk's cap when someone that I knew asked me a question about a tall sturdy plant that she was carrying around while she decided if she really wanted to take it home. That plant was the swamp hibiscus and I have to admit I was not even familiar with that plant at all.

We both decided that anything that belonged to the Hibiscus family had to be a good thing and she wanted something she did not already have.

I was carrying around a horse tail plant because I was also deciding did I want something new. That is also a water loving plant and I have never had one before. Maybe all these water-loving plants sounded interesting because it has been so hot, and dry lately.

Who knows? A gardener can always find a reason to adopt another plant. I think maybe buying the horse tail plant was an easy decision when I decided I would not have to dig a hole to plant it, just set it with a clump of wet growing Cyperus, alternifolius. This is a sedge plant that makes a graceful scent around a pond or water garden.

The tall green stems are topped with coarse leaves that form an umbrella form. I am growing it in a basin camouflaged to look like a hugh cut out rock. Easy hot sun planting.

Keeping the root mass covered with water is a bit of a chore for me, however it's still easier than digging a pond. The slender brown stems of the horse tail, which have a small bamboo look, will make a great water feature and also provide me with a couple of live plants to use in flower designing.

I have one rose bush, afternoon delight, which is now blooming its heart out. I am sure all of the heavy rains we have been having should get the credit. This old bush that I purchased at a hardware store about 10 years ago is so fragrant and the creamy white center blooms, with crimson trim are so beautiful. It is getting

Pretty old and I am not sure how much longer it will be a hearty bloomer. At my age I am careful not to throw out something just because it is old. I tried several years ago to plant another rose in a sunny area but it did not thrive at all and I decided to just stay with my perfect bush and enjoy it. I keep it cleared of critters and other problems using a NEEM insecticide for organic gardening.

I am emptying all saucers and pots of their rainwater. You are also, I hope, and even more important, you are pouring it onto your potted and hanging plants. They will dry out in a day or two of our hot sunny days, no matter how much it has rained for three days in a row.

Mosquitoes, I am having my share biting but they all seem to be tiny new ones and no monster ones.

Sunscreen is needed even on some cloudy days. Those harmful rays come right down through the clouds even if you do not feel the heat. The clouds that have been rolling through lately, that look like snow clouds, probably are thick enough to stop any rays, and almost low enough to touch.

This is a good place to live if you are a weather watcher, a great variety of changes in just one day's time. Weather forecasters must have to stay in great shape to figure out what is coming down the pike. I forgive them when they make a mistake and I am walking around in the dark looking for one of my handy flashlights. They are only human.

Happy safe gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral and Potpourri Designers.



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