Last week we talked a bit about the Confederate Rose, which is not a rose at all but rather a hibiscus. There are several plants of the hibiscus genus that are wonderful plants for the Texas Gardener who is on the lookout for showy yet easy-to-grow plants .
I must mention another hibiscus that Texan gardeners worthy of the name will love— the glorious Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus). It was the first hibiscus I ever grew. In fact, I have one growing in my walled, side garden, right now. It will come into bloom in a few weeks and will bloom till the first frost in the fall. Native to right here in Texas, it’s a tall, semi-woody perennial with leaves resembling those of the maple tree. Some say it looks like marijuana. I’m proud the name Texas is associated with this hibiscus because it is one tough “hombre” and has magnificent scarlet red flowers which often reach up to 8 inches across. The flowers open early in the morning and last only one day, but many buds will appear over the season. The blooms on this hibiscus are not as showy as some of the Asian cultivars we see in the nurseries, but it is not a shy plant. It seems to shout out at you “Hello Friend” with its bright red color. It is a wonderful plant for the Lone Star State, a real “head-turner”!
A garden that focuses on the color red can be a very fiery place to visit, full of passion and emotion. Let me suggest a few plants, that will form an alliance with the venerable Texas Star Hibiscus: Coral Honeysuckle , Coral Bean and Turk’s cap. These plants will stay in your garden for years and sport bright, shiny red colors- keeping Texas in the red column for years to come. (Please forgive a little political lingo…I hate politics)
Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a diminutive honeysuckle, unlike the Japanese version that has taken over our countryside. It will bloom during the summer months as it climbs structures and winds its way through your garden. You will want to provide something for it to climb on.
Coral bean (Erythrina herbacea) is a herbaceous perennial and blooms from spring to late fall. It gets rather high in the garden, up to six feet (if you just let it go), and it puts on bright, red flower spikes which are followed by attractive, brightly red seed in the winter months. This suggests one of its common names- “Cherokee Bean”. Supposedly, Indians liked to string the seed like beads. It is also said that the seeds are poisonous, so, take note.
Then there is also Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), another Texas native perennial. This is almost evergreen here in Nacogdoches, but not quite. Sometimes freezes will kill it down to the ground, but it will come back from the roots. Its brightly red, fez-like blooms are extremely attractive to hummingbirds. Malvaviscus has another quality going for it- it will grow practically anywhere.
Speaking of hummingbirds, there is another reseeding annual that really takes to Texas’ heat that hummingbirds love as well- Salvia coccinea. I love this little showoff!
These plants will complement this Venerable and Glorious member of the Hibiscus tribe— The Texas Star.