Hibiscus flowers are one of the most spectacular blossoms a container gardener can grow. The blooms are large, colorful and incredibly graceful. The foliage of the hibiscus plant is also beautiful – the dark green, glossy leaves, provide a wonderful contrast with the extravagant blooms.
Caring for hibiscus is easy and can make any container garden feel luxurious and exotic. Here are some important information to care your hibiscus the best way:
- Sun Requirements – While most plant tags will tell you that hibiscus takes full sun to partial sun, in reality, if you live somewhere hot and light, you should go more towards partial sun. In Northern climes, your hibiscus will probably be happier in full sun.
- Drainage and Watering are Key – Hibiscus are thirsty plants and will only thrive and produce blossoms if they are given enough water. Depending on heat, wind and humidity, your plant may need to be watered daily – in extremely dry conditions – twice a day. These are tropical plants, so they don’t like to dry out. They also don’t like to be soaking wet, so you have to be careful not to drown your plants. Keep the soil moist, watering your plant slowly and deeply. If your hibiscus is dropping leaves, or you’re seeing yellowing leaves at the top of the hibiscus, chances are it’s not getting enough water. If your hibiscus has yellowing leaves in the middle or towards the bottom of the plant, chances are it’s suffocating from too much water.
- Pot Size – For consistent production of hibiscus flowers, you don’t want to transplant your hibiscus in too deep a container. If you do, your plant will be healthy, but will spend more energy producing roots than flowers and top growth, so you may see fewer flowers until the roots have hit the bottom of the pot. However, if you are doing a mixed container, you will want to put the hibiscus in a larger pot, so optimally, look for one that is wider than the nursery pot, but not much deeper.
- Fertilizer – Chances are good that when you buy your hibiscus, it has a slow release fertilizer mixed into to the soil so you probably don’t have to worry about feeding your plant for the first few months you own it. After that feed it regularly. I use a diluted, liquid fish emulsion, seaweed combination every other week.
- Overwintering Hibiscus – If you live in a northern climate, it is possible to overwinter hibiscus indoors, though it’s not easy. Your hibiscus will need at least 2-3 hours of direct sunlight. Try putting your hibiscus in an East, West or South facing window. Though your hibiscus will need less water in the winter, be aware that once you turn on your heat, your air will be dry, which can be hard on tropical plants, so you will need to water more often. If you see any buds remove them – you don’t want your hibiscus to flower in the winter. In the spring, cut the plant back and put it back outside, once the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50°F.
- Happy Hibiscus – If your plant is consistently producing hibiscus flowers, it is happy, so keep doing what you’re doing. If your plant is not producing buds and flowers, try moving it into an area that has either more or less sunlight.
With their classic, plump flower heads, which seem to hover like purple clouds above other plants, alliums are one of the highlights of the summer garden. You might be surprised at the range of flower shapes and colours available among these ornamental onions – bright blue, white, gold, darkest purple and pale pink hues, as well as pendulous flowers, flat blooms and enormous flower heads like fireworks.
How to grow alliums
Plant bulbs at 2½ times their own depth in autumn and space them about 8 inches (or 4 inches in the case of smaller bulbs such as A. triquetrum). Some alliums have rhizomes (underground stems) instead of bulbs – these are the ones that look more like spring onions than dry bulbs on arrival. Plant these in autumn just below the soil surface and 4 inches apart.
Alliums aren’t too fussy, but a sheltered spot with well-drained soil in full sun is their ideal position.
For impact, plant alliums in groups. Create a year-long display with spring bulbs and hellebore hybrids in spring that will die down to make way for late-flowering herbaceous perennials, such as Japanese anemones, that will hide any untidy allium leaves and provide colour once the alliums are over.
To keep alliums tidy, gather up the dead leaves in early summer and remove any stems that become detached at their bases in late summer. Although all on trial stood up well, in a very exposed site you may need to provide support for stems. Keep an eye out for rust and cut back diseased foliage. Alliums are hardy in Britain and can be left in the ground all year round.
Some of the most noteworthy ornamental alliums include:
- Ornamental garlic (A. aflatunense) – lovely lilac-colored, spring-blooming type.
- Giant onion (A. giganteum) – one of the largest blooming species, with globe-shaped flowers that grow up to 5 feet or more.
- Golden onion (A. moly) is beautiful, especially when placed in a rock garden. Its yellow, star-like flowers make an impressive sight in the garden when planted in drifts too.
- Bride’s onion (A. neapolitanum) – spring-blooming with star-shaped white flowers and narrow, green leaves.
- Rosy garlic (A. roseum) – with its sweet-scented pink blooms, this allium species is great for adding to beds and borders.
- Drumstick allium (A. sphaerocephalon) – these have reddish-purple globes and fit in nicely with companion plants like hosta. Their blooms, even once faded, still remain attractive throughout fall and winter.
True lilies belong to the genus Lilium and grow from plump, scaly bulbs. They are magnificent flowers that command attention wherever they are planted.
Lily flowers are valued for their very showy, often fragrant flowers. The 6 plain or strikingly marked tepals (“petals”) are often trumpet-shaped, sitting atop tall.
At home in both formal and naturalistic settings, lilies also most take readily to containers. They all make wonderful cut flowers.
By carefully blending early, mid-season, and late varieties into your garden, you will enjoy their bewitching blooms and seductive scents from spring through frost.
- Plant bulbs in autumn. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. The deep planting encourages the developing stem to send out roots to help stabilize the plant and perhaps eliminate the need for staking.
- Note: Lilies do not thrive in Zones 9 to 10 without a period of refrigeration; they need a cold, dormant period.
- For dependable blooms, lilies need six to eight hours of sunshine a day, yet they prosper in the presence of other low plants that protect their roots from drying out.
- Water trapped beneath the scales may rot the bulb, so a well-drained site is essential.
- Most of the popular varieties prefer acidic to neutral soil, but some are lime-tolerant or prefer alkaline soils (e.g., Madonna lilies).
- Grow in soil enriched with leaf mold or well-rotted organic matter.
- Dig a hole 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulbs are high and set the bulb in the hole pointy side up. Fill the hole with soil and tamp gently.
- Space bulbs at a distance equal to 3 times the bulb’s diameter.
- Water thoroughly.
- In active growth, water freely and apply a high-potash liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks.
- Keep moist in winter.
- Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch.
- Water plants in the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
- Stake tall lilies.
- As flowers fade, cut back the stalks to the base of the plant.
- After bloom, divide lilies. Replant using compost and bonemeal.
- Gray mold is sometimes a problem, especially in a wet, cool spring or summer.
- Viruses, spread by aphids, may be troublesome, although some cultivars are virus-tolerant.
- Red lily beetles, slugs, and snails may occur.
- Deer, rabbits, voles, and groundhogs may eat entire plants. Consider a wire cage for bulbs if this seems to be an issue where you live.
Displaying Lilies in Vases
- Lilies make wonderful cut flowers. Choose lilies with buds that are just about to open, not tight and green, witha bit of the flower color showing.
- As soon as you get lilies inside, trim the stem ends an inch or so, making a diagonal cut with a sharp knife.
- If you worry that the orange pollen of lilies might cause stains, simply snip off the stamens in the flower’s center.
- Before arranging in a vase, remove the lower leaves on the stems so that no foliage will be underwater.
- A good lily arrangement will last 2 or more weeks. Change the water every few days.
- To help prolong the life, add cut-flower food to the water. Lilies require only half the amount of food recommended for other flowers.
Of the nine divisions of classification, Asiatic and Oriental are the most popular with gardeners.
- Asiatic lilies are the earliest to bloom and the easiest to grow. Hybrids come in pure white, pinks, vivid yellows, oranges, and reds; heights are from one to six feet. Intense breeding has erased much of the Asiatics’ fragrance, but in spite of their lack of perfume, they are a favorite with floral arrangers.
- Oriental hybrids bloom in mid- to late summer, just when Asiatic lilies are beginning to fade. From tiny two-footers to towering eight-foot-tall giants, Orientals are always a striking choice (the shorter ones are great for patio beds or container gardens). Adored for their intoxicating fragrance that intensifies after dark, Oriental lilies produce masses of huge white, pink, red, or bi-color blooms. They make wonderful cut flowers that will fill even the largest of rooms with their spicy scents.
Wit & Wisdom
The name “lily” can be misleading because lots of other plants use it besides true lilies. Daylilies and water lilies aren’t lilies at all, and neither are lilies-of-the-valley or lilyturf.
With so many other plants using the name “lily,” it’s apparent that identity theft must have been around long before the use of computers and credit cards!