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Plant of the Week: Perennial Hibiscus

When most people think of hibiscus they think of a tropical plant that grows in warm climates like Hawaii or Florida. Well, if you love the look of hibiscus but think it can only be grown in very warm climates don’t fret. If you crave a touch of the tropics, perennial hibiscus is a must. The perennial hibiscus should not be confused with the tropical hibiscus, which will not survive a winter freeze. Perennial varieties are true, cold hardy shrubs that die back each winter only to reemerge in the spring even bigger and better! And best of all, these beauties are easy to care for. Provide them with sun, decent soil and some pruning now and again and once established, they’ll provide your garden with years of fabulous color. There are many varieties of perennial hibiscus to choose from with plant heights ranging from 3 feet to 8 feet tall with giant, dinnerplate size blossoms in an array of colors. Make room in your garden for one of our favorite perennial hibiscus plants in stores now:

Summerific 'Cranberry Crush': A naturally compact selection that works well in large containers. Large 7-8”, deep scarlet red flowers are produced all over the dense, rounded clump of deep green, leathery, maple-like leaves. Garden Height: 36 - 48 inches.

Maintenance Tips: Perennial Hibiscus should be cut back to 4-6" from the ground in the spring. Since this plant doesn't leaf out until late, any time in spring before the new growth appears is fine. The stems are quite woody, so a saw or strong pair of loppers is necessary to cut through the thick stems. If you want to get really bushy and full plants, when the shoots start to come out of the ground and are about 6-10 inches tall, pinch them in half. The pinch should be made just above a set of leaves, this will improve branching. Improved branching will yield more flowers. Each time you pinch, take no more than half of the stem and pinch just above a set of leaves. You will get fuller plants doing multiple pinches. It is also perfectly acceptable not to pinch at all. The plant will have fewer branches, but it will perform perfectly well.

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>

Meet Our Landscape Designers

There’s a reason our landscapes stand out. We’ve been making them happen for more than 70 years. Meet the faces behind the beautiful spaces.

JEFF WILLETT

BACKGROUND: Jeff has been transforming green spaces since 1975, and brings creativity to everything he does. He has the vision and the experience to achieve stunning results with lasting quality. He is a professional Horticulturist, I.C.P.I. Certified and has experienced all faucets of the nursery and landscape industry both regionally and internationally. Think beautiful, think bigger, think Jeff.
WHEN I'M NOT WORKING, YOU CAN FIND ME: Enjoying sports, eating great food and hanging out with my family and dogs.
GARDENING ADVICE: "Research. Go wild. Think outside the box!”
FAVORITE PLANTS: Dwarf Conifers and Japanese Maples.

KELYN HOLCOMB

BACKGROUND: A native of Chesapeake, Kelyn studied horticulture at Virginia Tech. After graduation, she worked in the horticultural departments at both the Norfolk Botanical Garden and the Virginia Zoo. She also spent time gardening on the big island of Hawaii, maintaining organic gardens and identifying tropical plants. Kelyn gets her hands dirty, continues to learn every day and has never met a plant she doesn’t like.
WHEN I'M NOT WORKING, YOU CAN FIND ME: Walking along the bay, kayaking, sailing, camping, spending time with family, cooking plant-based meals, enjoying the local craft breweries and tending to my own garden.
GARDENING ADVICE: "Gardens are always evolving, so don’t be afraid to change things up once in a while or find a different way to highlight the beauty of an old favorite, no matter how big or small."
FAVORITE PLANTS: Echinacea, rudbeckia, Mexican sage, ornamental grasses, saucer magnolias and tulip poplars.

KIMBERLY EDWARDS

BACKGROUND: A seasoned landscape architect, Kimberly has 24+ years of hardscapes and softscapes design, and is a Certified Landscape Specialist from The George Washington University. She is a Certified Nutrient Planner in both Agriculture and Turf & Landscape and is a LEED accredited professional. Kimberly stays active and current in the gardening community through her numerous professional horticultural affiliations. Her love of learning continues, and she doesn’t mind sharing her hard-earned knowledge with others through teaching. If you can dream it, Kimberly can create it.
WHEN I'M NOT WORKING, YOU CAN FIND ME: Hiking, cooking and reading.
GARDENING ADVICE: "Plant what you love!"
FAVORITE PLANTS: Hydrangeas, beautyberry, eastern red cedar and catmint.

SUSAN MARIE RHODES

BACKGROUND: 25 years of landscape design experience gives Susan an edge when it comes to designing. She’s a Virginia Certified Horticulturist with a degree in botany and takes advantage of her vast experience to create all type of landscapes. From bay-scaping a beach cottage, to a historical renovation, or a simplistic flagstone patio, Susan devotes her personal touch and attention to every phase of your landscape from start to finish.
WHEN I'M NOT WORKING, YOU CAN FIND ME: Horseback riding, playing Polo or sailing on the Elizabeth River and cooking for family and friends.
GARDENING ADVICE: "Many customers only come to the garden center during spring and fall and buy only what's in bloom. Come to the garden center every month throughout the year. A shrub, perennial or tree is always in bloom in this region every month — that way your garden will be filled with seasonal color all year long.”
FAVORITE PLANTS: Any plant or tree that gives life long substance, whether food, beauty or shade.

Plants for Waterfront Living

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Having lived on some kind of waterway for 25 years, I’ve learned much about the good and bad of waterfront gardening.

The good is that plants are often tougher than you think they are. Our yards have been though numerous saltwater tidal floods and most of the plants thrive just fine. Happily for me and the plants, refreshing rains typically follow flooding and wash away much of any salinity in the soil.

The bad is that shallow-rooted plants like azaleas and dogwoods are not the best for waterfront gardening, especially along the water’s edge.

Our current property is designed to tolerate flooding at its worst. I find that roses, hydrangeas (blue Nikko my favorite), wax myrtles, nandinas and camellias survive occasional tidal flooding. Perennials and bulbs, too.

Our Tifway Bermuda lawn, with some St. Augustine at the point, never blinks, just keeps on growing.

So far, our three crape myrtles (dark purple my favorite color) have been through a couple of minor floods without any damage. If there is no rain after the floods, I saturate their root zone with fresh water from the outdoor faucets. Other salt-tolerant trees include most maples, ginkgo, American holly (we have a 40-year-old one that’s been flooded numerous times), sweetgum, sweet bay magnolia (got that one, too, right on the shoreline), black gum (beautiful fall color), London plane tree, oaks, bald cypress (got two that love wetness of any kind) and lacebark elm.

Coastal waterfront living also means trees must contend with winds and possible damage. Proper pruning to remove sharp v-crotches helps reduce limb breakage. Winds blowing against trees with dense foliage can push the plants over, so some light pruning to open the canopy will allow the wind to pass through without harming anything.

When and if a storm uproots one of your prized trees, especially smaller ones, you can right the tree and stake it on three sides. Odds are the tree will reset its roots and continue to be healthy. The key is to get it done quickly and keep the root system well watered, especially if it’s still hot and somewhat dry. Here’s hoping none of us have to do that anytime soon.

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