Saturday, March 22, 2014

Groundbreaking News! Hibiscus Coccineus Sprouts - WV Sprout Journal 3

Wow - checked my planting trays on the kitchen island last night before going to bed - and great news - two brand new little sprouts in my Hibiscus coccineus greenhouse.  Got up this morning and already several more were poking through the soil. 

Hibiscus coccineus seeds were contributed by Alice Fraser of Trustees GC.  She listed them as Scarlet Hibiscus, hardiness zone 9.  The Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Page makes this plant sounds great.  The common name is Scarlet Rose Mallow and it is native to the Southeastern US.  Very showy flowers, a hummingbird attractor and great summer bloom time.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center calls it one of our loveliest natives.

It will be marginal here in WV as it is hardy in Zones 6-9. But I have a south facing bank and have been able to grow NC plants.  Charleston is now listed as 6B, but we've had a cold, harsh winter this year.  Also listed as possibly being somewhat invasive in the south in swampy areas; I won't have to worry about that here since I would be at the northernmost range for hardiness. 

Two side notes here - the plant is mentioned in several sites as looking like marijuana until it bursts forth in bloom.  One site mentions that the plant is toxic to pets, but does not mention humans.  Would welcome any comments on the toxic note!

Scarlet Rosemallow does like medium to wet soil and full sun.  Part of my hillside is full of natural springs which make for very soggy conditions in the spring, and fairly dry as summer moves in so this is a potential location.  One thing I have always remembered from my Master Gardeners is that wet can sometimes adapt to drier conditions (not completely dry!) but dry will never adapt to wet soggy another plus for me.

I decided to try a different method of propagation than my other ones and used a "living lettuce" container from the grocery store.  (Using leftover clear plastic food containers was mentioned in an earlier blog). Since we cannot recycle this type of plastic here, I had saved a few for this purpose.  There were not any drainage holes in this one, so I poked a few in the bottom.  The bottom of the container has a well with a circular ridge about half way across.  I poked holes on either side of that ridge; in the center well and on the outside well to provide the necessary drainage. 

Empty "Living Lettuce" container.
Fuschia line shows the circular raised ridge with a well on either side.
Green areas show where I added drainage holes - several all the way around.

The bottom of the container is a nice depth for a larger seed like the Hibiscus.  I put in several inches of soil.  The top of the container was nice and high - hopefully a perfect greenhouse.

Seeds needed to scarified and soaked overnight.  The seeds are in the pyrex dish
in the left of the photo.  Interestingly, the seeds floated when I first put them in
the dish, but I did not weight down.  After soaking overnight the majority of them sank
to the bottom of the dish so I knew they had absorbed water.  You can see the height of
the plastic top of the container.

Hinged container - planted, labeled, closed up,
placed in a saucer and ready to go.
Seeds were sown on March 17.   My container was put on the kitchen island along with the rest of my projects and left alone. Again, some bright but indirect light during the day, kitchen warmth and my  moist soil.

Friday, March 22 - SPROUTS!

See all the sprouts coming up!

Not ready to remove the top permanently, but
took the top off to show you the seed germination.

The propagation tips from say that seedlings emerge in less than two weeks - mine were up in 5 days.  The notes also say that once established they are drought-resistant and thrive without water for long period.  Watch to keep from growing leggy and thin out to one per pot when they grow 1" tall.  transplant when they are 4-6" tall.
Sunday, March 30
Top is permanently off.  Sitting beside the OTT light.  The majority of the light is going to the poppies, but the Hibiscus is able to get some.  Turning the container ever day to keep the seedlings growing straight and tall.  My best effort out of all so far.

Doing so well with this that I am going to try some Hibiscus moscheutos seeds that we had from another club member.  Only had a few seeds as a couple of us shared - scarified and soaked the seeds and placed in a 6 pack tray, again well covered with soilless mix.
Not much too look at now - hopefully this one will work!

Sunday, April 7, 2014 - Not a lot of progress.  As with mamsprouts I feel like my plants are sleeping.  The first true set of leaves trying to develop all week but not quite emerging on the H. coccineus.  The plants are very healthy though.  Although the soil looks moist because it is dark colored, I realize that the plants are very dry.  Bottom watered with a diluted fertilizer.  Will see if that helps.  No sprouts on the H. moscheutos pack - hopefully something will show soon. 

Monday, April 8, 2014 - The watering and fertilizer must have helped already - the plants have perked up and it seems that the first set of leaves is growing overnight!  Excited that one of my trays is showing progress. 

Hibiscus coccineus with first true leaves emerging.
Saturday, April 12, 2014 - Kittysprout coming over today to repot two more hyacinth bean and some four o'clocks.  So, I decide to transplant the Hibiscus coccineus (above).  They've grown a little more and I don't want them to be crowded.   What was the advice from mamsprout?  Wait!  Be patient!  The roots won't be as developed as you think!  Was she right? Definitely Yes! 

Not much root there - should have waited.

But, I've come this far and my pots are ready.  So, I go ahead and move to the 3" pot.  Put in the same tray as my few remaining poppies and turn on the lights.  Will wait a little before fertilizing as I put fresh soilless mix into my pots and that soil contains some fertilizer.  Don't want to do any more damage.
I broke a couple in transplanting but have about 8-10 of these.
If these make it I will consider it a success.

April 19-23, 2014
Starting the hardening off process.  Moving my tray of plants outside and back in at night.  Lovely warm days, fairly chilly nights, although only to about 40.

Almost blew it - last night I didn't bring my plants in, thinking they had been out a few nights and would be OK.  Well....when I went out this morning, it was pretty chilly and the hibiscus were very wilted.  Rather than wait for the day to warm up I brought them back in and put in a very bright south facing window that was warm from the sun.  Whew - within 2 hours they are perked up and happy. 
Above photo with droopy plants - a little bit of warmth and sun
and they are happy!  Just like me.

May 24, 2014
Also fun to come home and see the growth on these.  Looking so much better.  Will have to decide where to place them next.  I gave a couple I think to UC Sprout the other day and she is going to place in a deck pot and see what happens since these are not supposed to be reliably hardy in our zone.  I'll keep you informed as to what I do with mine.
Look how well they are doing.  The leaves
are not really that yellow - that's from the flash
on my camera.  Definitely progress!

May 30, 2014
Artful Sprout and WV Sprout have put their hibiscus in the ground.  Nice hot weather should stimulate growth.  Artful Sprouts is already shooting up.
Artful Sprout's hibiscus showing new growth
and the stem is strengthening!


June 4, 2014
I put two of my hibiscus in the ground last week, surrounded by a tomato cage so that no one would accidentally step on them (like the deer that come through my yard).  I placed them in a spot that slopes with lots of sun and retains some moisture as there are some springs in the hillside that should provide the wetness needed.  They were holding up fine until last night we had a heavy rain storm - one sprout survived, the other looks like it took a direct hit to the storm.  Not sure if it will survive.  I have three remaining plants that I put in a container over next to the fence on the side property line.  Hoping that in the container they will flourish and I can decide what to do with them later.

Planted directly in the yard, tomato cage for protection.
Rain storm last night crimped the stem of the one on the right.

Planted the remaining 3 in a large pot with some protection around it.
Lots of good sunlight though and I can monitor the moistness of the pot.

June 21, 2014
They are growing - surviving all the rain we have been having. 

August 23, 2014
My hyacinth have taken off!  Lots of growth - enjoying our moist summer.  I don't know whether or not I will get any bloom, but writing this so I can send off to Barbara to post for seed share stories.  Time to get these guys in the ground so that they can acclimate and hopefully survive the winter.  The 'bug guy' just came to get rid of a yellow jackets nest that was in my house that had to be destroyed.  His theory is that we are going to have a cold, hard winter here as the yellow jackets are nesting earlier - storing up on protein already.  He has a lot of experience in this and so I believe him! 

You can see the terrific growth since the June posting.

I took two of the three plants and put in the ground.
Leaving one in the pot just to see which survive our upcoming winter.
Went to visit my sister, Artful Sprout, in
mid September.  This is her hibiscus in her garden.
No blooms this year but great growth! 

June 9, 2015
All three of my hibiscus coccineus survived our winter!  Pretty amazing as we had very cold temperatures.  There was not a lot of snow to provide coverage, but there was a lot of moisture.  Hibiscus stay dormant until very late, so no action until May.  A lot of patience is required as all of the other surrounding plants were out and blooming.  Hibiscus start from ground level here so there was a lot of checking, hoping for a shoot.  Finally, one sprouted, then another.  Almost a full two weeks later the final third plant decided to make its presence known.  I have not transplanted them but will leave them where they are and determine later in the summer if I am going to like this spot as a permanent one.  No blooms last year, but hoping for bloom this year. 

This one stands alone, slightly
uphill from the other two.  All
three plants are in strong sun on a
south facing hillside.  There are natural
springs in the hill so that there is a
lot of spring moisture. 

Here are the other two.  Although
natural springs in the hillside, the soil will
become dry and cracked later in the
summer.  These will receive a nice
cover of mulch around the roots soon.

September 8, 2015
Final update on this plant!  I have blooms after the 2nd year and hopefully seeds - maybe not in time for Shirley Meniece in Seattle, but hopefully some to share with our committee.  I have struggled with deer liking this plant all summer.  I left over Labor Day and forgot to spray and again several branches were eaten.  On my return I sprayed with Bobbex, my long time favorite for keeping the deer away.

But, the plant is now so tall there is plenty left on top.  Lots of blossoms coming so I will enjoy all fall.  One bloom opened the other day and it is beautiful.  The blossoms only last one day.   I am at the top end of the growing zone for this plant (6b here in Charleston) and so it may be slower.  My location is wet in the spring because of natural springs in my hillside, but very dry in the summer as it is now.  The plant though has grown beautifully and has adapted to the dryness, but that could be a reason for lack of blossoms.  My sister who lives in downtown Charleston also has blooms and I will share her photos.  A great plant and much patience has paid off!

One near my hyacinth bean on the
basketball pole.  You can see it is almost
as tall as the back board - 6-8'.

The other two are about 10' away
located in full sun near my milkweeds.
This one is blooming.

The bloom is lovely - wish
it lasted more than one day.
My sister's plants are below.  You can get a good idea of the height looking at her house in the background. 

July 2016
We received a comment (below) asking about propagation by division.  Yes, several sources say division can easily be done.  It should be done in the spring and put right back into the new location.  Fall division is not suggested.  You may also propagate by cuttings.  Take a cutting at least 6" in length, strip off the bottom leaves, dip in a rooting hormone and place in a starter or soilless mix.  In a few weeks, give a gentle tug and if you feel resistance it has rooted.  I would suggest keeping inside or in a sheltered place for this.  You may then either pot up into a larger pot or place directly into the ground if in a place where you can watch closely and not allow to dry out until well established.  Mine are located on a south facing bank that gets some natural moisture from ground springs.  They do dry out in the summer, but this is a very tolerant plant.  Moist can adapt to dry but dry cannot adapt to moist conditions very easily.  Here in WV we have a lot of clay.  A good reference site is the Clemson U. Extension site. 

Easily over 6' tall as the
black-eyes Susans in the
foreground are waist to
chest high.
My hibiscus is now in its third year - slow breaking dormancy.  Not until around our frost date which is May 10 here in WV.  But it grew like a weed and should be blooming soon.  Over 6' tall!  The black-eyed Susan's in the photo below are between waist-chest height and the milkweeds in the other photo are head height if you want an idea of how tall the hibiscus are.  Can't wait for it to bloom.  Just be careful when it is short and still growing as the deer occasionally come by for a taste.

Swamp milkweed in the
foreground is head high so the
hibiscus behind is 6-7' tall
Also, look at the difference in width and fullness from the summer of 2015 in the pictures above.  This year it has filled in beautifully and taken up quite a large spot in my garden.  I know that I will have a long and beautiful bloom season.


  1. Posted an update and photo today on Hibiscus coccineus.

  2. Almost blew it last night by leaving my plants outside - a little too chilly still even tho on the side porch - very wilted but perked up once inside and near a warm sunny window.

  3. Update also today on Hibiscus coccineus. Let me know if anyone wants to try one of these.

  4. Hibiscus coccineus going outside - nice warm weather, a sunny but slightly moist place. Anyone else? Add to our post.....

  5. Update on Hibiscus coccineus today.

  6. Three hibiscus coccineus from last year have emerged and are growing like weeds. Slow breaking dormancy but making up for it now.

  7. Blossoms on the Hibiscus coccineus and final posting on this plant! Hope to collect seeds from this one, too.

  8. I love this flower! I picked one up from a yard sale last year. How is yours doing? have you tried doing any divisions? I have mine in a large pot on my porch, I am curious how it will do if i divided it.

    1. Thanks for being in touch! I love this flower also. Mine is doing great this year and it will be the third year in the ground. I live in zone 6/6b in WV and it is very late in breaking dormancy. Our last frost date is May 10 so I don't look for it until then. I am not sure where you are located. Once it breaks ground it grows like a weed and is already over 6' tall this year. I will post a photo in the blog above. I have 2 or 3 that I started from seed so do not need any more. I read on many sites that you can do division. It should be done in the spring and put right back into the ground. Fall divisions are not suggested. Cuttings may also be taken. Take a cutting of at least 6", remove a couple of the bottom leaves and dip in a rooting hormone. Place in a pot with good soilless mixture available at a garden shop. Keep moist but not saturated. It should root in a few weeks (give a gentle tug to see if you have resistance). Then plant. Watch closely the first year so that it does not dry out and die. It will tolerate a lot of heat. Mine is in a south facing hillside which does dry out later in the summer but is moist in the spring with natural ground springs. A good site for instruction is the Clemson extension site: Good luck and let us know how it goes.