Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Honestly Officer, It IS a Hibiscus!

I have a friend of mine that likes to pop over every so often, just to see the yard. She is a plant fanatic, like me. I mention this, because it will add some insight into the rest of the story. She is a Sergeant on the Charleston County Police Force. When she comes by, she is usually in full uniform, unmarked police car and has been known to leave with some plants or containers. My neighbors tend to keep an eye on me and I am sure this unsettles them a little. This whole thing will make a little more sense when I show you what is in flower right now.
HEY, What does THAT look like!?

Here is the flower I was telling you about. Actually, the above two pictures are from the same plant. Can you see why the neighbors might think something is going on, with this growing in the yard and a police officer popping by every so often?

What you are looking at is Hibiscus coccineus, also known Scarlet Swamp Hibiscus, Native Swamp Hibiscus, Scarlet Rose Mallow or Texas Star.  
It is a hardy Hibiscus species that looks much like Cannabis sativa (marijuana).
It is native to the marsh like habitat of the Southeastern part of the United States. Growing in Zones 7-11
The swamp hibiscus is a perennial (a plant that lives more than two years) that can reach a height of 4 to 8 feet with a spread of 3 to 4 feet. It is a very fast grower and will easily attain the 8 feet in a single year. In the Winter it will die back, but comes back with a vengeance.
The leaves are lobed into 3, 5,or 7 parts. The finger-like lobes are slender and have jagged
teeth along their margins.
The deep red flowers, that only last for one day, are 5 to 6 inches wide and appear in mid to late Summer. There is no smell that I can tell. However, they do attract Butterflies and Hummingbirds.
To grow a swamp hibiscus, you do not need a swamp, it is a good candidate for a swampy, boggy area in your yard. Even though it will wilt in the heat of the afternoon, it is actually quite drought tolerant. It prefers part shade to full sun. Flowering is usually diminished in too much shade.  It can grow in practically any soil, from sand to clay.
Hibiscus coccineus can be propagated by seed or by dividing the plant in the Spring. It is not considered an invasive species.
Grasshoppers enjoy chewing the foliage and flower buds.  I usually squish them as a means of control or feed them to the birds. There are no real disease problems associated with the swamp hibiscus.
So, if you really want to mess with your neighbors, plant a whole bunch of Hibiscus coccineus. Then, when they are really growing well, invite a few friendly, plant loving, police officers over.....your nosey neighbors will be just waiting for the handcuffs to go on!
Happy Growing!


  1. I agree on the resemblance... I've been considering it but the only one I've seen so far was 20 bucks. It would be perfect for my boggy yard.

  2. The owners of Dream Gardens have told me stories about customers coming in, seeing it and calling the police. The police show up and obviously know it;s not pot.

  3. That's awesome! And it confirms a siting last week...I saw this plant and saw that it was labeled "hibiscus". I thought it was mislabeled! HA! Apparently not!!