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“Lavender Chiffon” Hibiscus (c) Cheryl Shanahan

I have yards and yards and yards of privacy fence on my city property, and I needed a creative solution to break up some of the monotony AND get some summer color out of the bargain, too.

I’m prone to walking as a moving meditation (you know: sort things out in your head while you’re strolling), and when I did one of my Alley Walks a few years ago, I stumbled on this pretty, upright shrub behind several neighbors’ homes.

I figured, “Perfect!“: if it’s out in their alleys, they can’t be paying a whole lot of attention to it….so it sounds like it might be the plant for ME!

I did a little research and discovered that the plant I fell in love with was a hibiscus, also known as a Rose-of-Sharon…or sometimes Althaea. It’s a deciduous, upright flowering shrub that thrives in the heat and puts out pretty blooms from July-September. Depending on the cultivar you select, it can grow from 6′-12′ tall and 4′-6′ wide. Blooms come in a rainbow of colors: white, clear pink, rose, purple, mauve, red and lavender (I selected “Lavender Chiffon” for my garden), and these shrubs make a great screen or backdrop to a perennial garden bed.

Supposedly, the flowers (which only last a day…like day lilies) are edible, but I have not yet experimented with them yet. I’ll have to get back to you on that point.

What Hibiscus Likes:

  • Heat! BRING IT!
  • Sandy, well-drained soil – but it will adapt to a variety of soil conditions
  • Mulch in the winter
  • Prune in late winter. Get rid of the heavier branches to keep that nice columnar form going strong
  • To be kept away from strong winds. Mine are protected on their backsides by the privacy fence
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