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On Gardening: South Pacific Sipper, enormous blossoms of exquisite beauty

April 10, 2017

Across from my backyard, my neighbor has been turning his pool into a virtual paradise with a pergola and rock work. Now all he needs is a South Pacific Sipper! This sounds like the perfect tropical beverage to enjoy while floating across the clear blue water, but in reality, it is one of the most beautiful hibiscuses in the market.

South Pacific Sipper might best be described as a fancy hibiscus and indeed it is. It produces flowers so large they defy logic. They are somewhat ruffled and often called double with blooms that seem to be 9-inches in diameter. There is no other plant that conjures up visions of the islands, whether those in the South Pacific or in the Caribbean.

It was first called Nectar Pink, an obvious clue to its color, which you might still find in some markets. Iíve seen hummingbirds, swallowtail and even sulphur butterflies visiting the tropical blooms.

This hibiscus known botanically as Hibiscus rosa-sinensis originates in China and is kin to our well-known swamp hibiscus or mallow. Today there are hundreds of varieties available in almost every color except for blue. There are even those that change colors throughout the day. The dark green foliage is handsome and contrasts nicely with the beautiful flowers that generally stay open only for a day. They are however produced for months during our long growing season which makes them worth every penny even if only treated as an annual.

Hibiscus belongs in both containers on the patio or deck and in that special spot in the landscape. The requirements are much like any other annual we grow. Plant your hibiscus in well-drained, well-prepared beds because they absolutely cannot take wet feet, but use a good layer of mulch to keep the soil evenly moist through the season and of course to make weed control easier.

Choose a site with plenty of sunlight. Morning sun and filtered afternoon light are just about perfect. Hibiscus blooms on new growth so it is important to keep it growing vigorously throughout the season. Keep them well fed and watered during periods of drought.

Many gardeners think that the prolific flower production of a hibiscus requires high amounts of super bloom type fertilizers high in phosphorous. This is not the case. Hibiscus prefers a slow released balanced fertilizer formula such as a 6-6-6 in light monthly applications.

Keep in mind that those growing in containers that are watered daily will quickly leach the nutrients from the soil. You will have to apply diluted, water-soluble fertilizer weekly or controlled-released granules per formula recommendation.

I must confess that my bride is not only the buyer of all our hibiscus, she is also the daily horticulturist that keeps them ever so picturesque. I know she would be the first to tell you to get on the bandwagon this spring and let a tropical hibiscus bring joy to your gardening.

 

 


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