Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hibiscus Panama Red

"Is that a Japanese Maple?" is the question I hear regularly when people first spy the Hibiscus Panama Red, the gorgeous painted monster that squats in the front corner of my yard. And with its deeply cut and deeply red foliage it is easy to see the resemblance. This was a "give it a try buy" from a big-box store in early summer that has more than earned its keep. Like a lot of the other plants I rave about, it fits my criteria of heat, humidity, and drought tolerant. Evidently, Allan Armitage at the University of Georgia agrees as it has been selected as one of their favs in the Athens Select program (see

Hibiscus acetosella (Panama Red or False Roselle) is not winter-hardy in my area although I've read that it might overwinter if it had some overhead protection from settling frost. Next year I'll give that a try by planting it under the perimeter of my cluster of Live Oaks. Panama Red has not flowered for me but who needs flowers with foliage this spectacular? In early October, my plant is nearly 5 feet tall and more than 6 feet at the widest. Imagine the size if I hadn't had to cut it back severely after it was wind damaged by a tropical storm six weeks ago! With lower branches touching the ground, there is absolutely nothing leggy or gangly about this plant

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