This month, our guest contributor to Chris' Corner is horticulturist Jason Reeves from the UT Gardens in Jackson, TN. Jason would like to introduce to you the August Plant of the Month, rose-of-Sharon. I actually have this plant in my landscape and it is absolutely beautiful! Jason is right on with his description of this plant.
When you think of "old school" or "classic plants", what comes to mind? In the south many think of their grandmother's hydrangeas, privet hedge, snowball bush (Viburnum), or her rose-of-Sharon. Hibiscus syriacus commonly called rose-of-Sharon or althea is the only woody hibiscus that is hardy north of Zone 8. Native to China and India, it was introduced into the United States. Rose-of-Sharon has stood the test of time for several reasons. Number one is its ability to thrive with virtually no care. That combined with its ease of growing from seed and its dependable blooms, made it a great pass along plant for hundreds of years. It fell out of favor for some time but in recent years there has been a resurgence in new cultivars. Breeders have been developing plants with variegated foliage, double flowers, and plants that don't produce seed.
When in full bloom rose-of-Sharon is an absolute show stopper. It is available in a wide range of flower colors including pink, purple, blue, white and near red. Blooms can be single, semi-double and double and range in size from 2-5 inches wide. They start flowering in early June and when grown in average to good garden conditions, bloom non-stop until late September. For best flower production they should be grown in 6 or more hours of direct sun. Bees and butterflies are attracted to its nectar and the large petals make for an easy landing.
Tolerant of a wide range of soil types, once established rose-of-Sharon is very drought tolerant and will survive without supplemental water except under extreme drought conditions. Hardy to well below 0 ºF(Zones 5-9), they respond well to pruning both for regular maintenance and severe "rejuvenating" by pruning to a few inches above the ground. Some gardeners even cut it back each year treating it more like a perennial. This causes the plant to produce many stems and flowers while keeping the plant under a few feet.
Anyone can grow rose-of-Sharon in their home garden, a horticulture degree or green thumb is not required. Look for Purple Pillar or other cultivars at your local garden center or at UT Gardens plant sales.
I want to thank Jason for introducing the 2018 Plant of the Month with us! For more information, contact Jason Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, happy gardening!