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Cajun hibiscus provides months of exotic colors

By Norman Winter

MSU Horticulturist
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center

CAJUN HIBISCUS -- With spectacular-colored flowers and contrasting dark green foliage, the new Cajun series hibiscus wowed visitors to the Jackson Garden and Patio Show. There are now more than 20 selections, such as the Fais Do Do pictured, in the Cajun series.

At the Jackson Garden and Patio Show, a new group of hibiscus made its debut and wowed everyone. Called Cajun hibiscus, this series comes in colors you only dreamed about. I got two at the show -- one called Black Dragon that is a deep burgundy with swirls, and then a yellow and red blend called Fais Do Do. Both are extremely large, measuring 9 inches at least.

There are now more than 20 selections in the Cajun series, which, by the way, is being hybridized by DuPont Nursery in Louisiana. All are beautiful, but you must have Voodoo Queen and Etouffee for your collection. Voodoo Queen is orange and lavender, and Etouffee is copper and red.

The flowers are spectacular with bright oranges, yellows, reds, pinks, whites and blends of these colors. Some even have double blossoms. The dark green foliage is handsome and contrasts nicely with the beautiful flowers. The flowers generally stay open only for a day but are produced for months.

With about 265 days of frost-free weather each year, our backyards can resemble the exotic look of the islands. All over the state, nurseries and garden centers have unloaded trucks of the tropical hibiscus. Hopefully yours will get some of the Cajun series soon if it hasn't already.

Think about how you can use them in the landscape. Nothing can be more exotic than a large banana plant growing behind one of these shrubs. Or plant a yellow allamanda on a trellis behind some red, single-flowered hibiscus.

The hibiscus deserves a spot in the landscape, whether combined with bananas, cannas or some other tropical plant. 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. Use a good layer of mulch to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season.

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

Many gardeners think the prolific flower production of a hibiscus requires large amounts of super-bloom-type fertilizers high in phosphorous. This is not the case; in fact, the hibiscus prefers a balanced fertilizer formula such as a 6-6-6. It prefers monthly, small applications of fertilizer.

Hibiscus also excel in containers, and if you choose this method, remember they must be watered daily. Keep in mind that the nutrients quickly leach from the soil. You will have to dilute and apply a water-soluble fertilizer weekly, or add time-released granules monthly.

I kept one particular hibiscus that I really liked for more than 12 years. I would plant it in the landscape and when cold weather approached, I would dig it up, prune the roots and top, and plant in a container with a light potting mixture.

This example shows their ruggedness -- and the tightness of my pocketbook. Whether your garden center has the Cajun series or not, they more than likely do have some you have never seen. Why not pick some up this weekend?

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Released: May 19, 2005
Contact: Norman Winter<, (601) 857-2284

Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.

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