Red hibiscus with its purple-black foliage serves
as a great backdrop for all colors of flowers
including this golden bromeliad, angelonias and
plant can stir up a conversation this time of the year
quite like the false roselle or African rosemallow. The
reason it stirs up the conversation is that a huge
percentage of the visitors think it is a Japanese maple.
Indeed the selling point of the plant is the incredible
gardeners who do grow it probably donít refer to it by
a common name like Cranberry hibiscus or even its
botanical name which is Hibiscus acetosella. Instead
most refer to it by its varietal names, including Haight
Ashbury hibiscus or Maple Sugar hibiscus.
acetosella is a tropical hibiscus grown mostly for its
foliage ó at least that is why I like it. As its
common name suggests it is from Africa. We are growing
several of the variety Panama Red at the entrance to our
new visitor and education center at the Coastal Georgia
Botanical Gardens in Savannah, Ga. The foliage is simply
dazzling. Itís indeed like having a fiery dark
purple-red maple showing off all summer.
Red has become one of the top varieties in the market
and has been selected as a representative in the
Southern Living line of outstanding plants. It will
reach 5 to 6 feet in height with a spread of 3 feet. Its
habit is more rounded than that of Red Shield and has
leaves that are more dissected. Dr. John Ruter with the
University of Georgia is credited with making this
colorful blackish purple foliage allows them to be grown
with just about any other color of summer flower. The
darker purple-red forms are an awesome partnership with
ornamental grasses and zinnias such as the Profusion
series. We are growing ours with the large Golden
Bromeliad, Serena angelonia and Graffiti Red Lace pentas.
In other areas we have them with Compact Electric Orange
SunPatiens and Blue Plumbago.
the years I have seen some beds partnered wonderfully as
a backdrop to gold coleus, pink pentas and blue fan
flower or scaevola. You can use it in a cottage-style
garden, or combine it with coarse-textured foliage like
bananas as if you had a home on the island of
Panama Red or any other variety you choose in fertile,
well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight. Full sun
gives the most intense foliage color, but I assure you a
little afternoon shade or filtered light will still
entice you to bring out the cameras.
tolerance and heat tolerance are two noteworthy
attributes you will love about the plants, but there is
one more trait most gardeners I deal with treasure, and
that is that they are all considered deer resistant.
literature has it all over the charts from the
standpoint of cold-hardiness. Most say it is perennial
from zone 9 to zone 11. Most report it is common to see
them root hardy in zone 8. University of Georgia says to
consider it a worthy annual. Mulch it well in the
winter, and if yours comes back you received an added
you live in an area with mild winters, gorgeous red
flowers will appear. Such was the case for us last year
with ours growing in containers on a protected porch.
Every single visitor commented on the flowers, whereas
itís typically the foliage causing all of the
it is in the landscape or as a thriller-plant in mixed
containers, the African rosemallows like Panama Red,
Maple Sugar and Haight Ashbury promise to perform all
growing season. I hope you will give it a try.