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Mahogany Splendor hibiscus brings purple

By Gary R. Bachman

MSU Horticulturist
Coastal Research & Extension Center

Plant foliage colors tend to come and go in trends, and right now purple-leaved plants are popular. I think one of the best of the newer purple varieties is Mahogany Splendor hibiscus.

Mahogany Splendor hibiscus can be confused with purple Japanese maple, as both have dramatic, purple-burgundy leaves with coarse, deeply serrated edges. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman) Click to enlarge
Mahogany Splendor hibiscus can be confused with purple Japanese maple, as both have dramatic, purple-burgundy leaves with coarse, deeply serrated edges. (Photo by Gary Bachman)

In the landscape, this plant provides awesome color. It is a vigorous grower that adds height and excitement.

Known botanically as Hibiscus acetosella, Mahogany Splendor is different from the other landscape hibiscus varieties -- such as tropical or dinner plate -- that have colorful and showy flowers. The flowers of Mahogany Splendor are pink but inconspicuous. The foliage is the main attraction.

At first glance, you might mistake this for a purple Japanese maple, and it’s easy to understand the confusion. Mahogany Splendor has dramatic purple-burgundy leaves with coarse, deeply serrated edges.

When grown in the full sun, the color develops the beautiful, deep burgundy tones. Mahogany Splendor also grows well in partial shade, but the colors will be less intense green and rusty brown tones.

Mahogany Splendor is perfect for our Mississippi gardens. The plant withstands high heat and is drought tolerant. But like all drought-tolerant plants, you will need to water it periodically during times of extreme dryness.

Despite its ability to withstand drought, it can be grown directly in the water and enjoyed as a pond plant in water gardens. It is also a good choice for those sharing their landscapes with deer, as Mahogany Splendor is deer-resistant.

This plant grows vigorously and easily reaches 5 feet tall or taller. It tolerates pruning well and can be shaped and maintained at desired sizes. One of the best management practices is to prune it every month after planting to promote a fuller and bushier plant for later in the season.

Mahogany Splendor hibiscus is a perennial plant that will die back to the ground after a frost or freeze. In north Mississippi, add a layer of mulch to help protect the plant during the winter. Resist the urge to cut back dead-looking stems in early winter, as this could encourage new growth.

In early spring, prune the stems back to about 6 inches long. I recommend you do this at the same time you cut back the winter stems of butterfly bush.

Spring is a good time to feed Mahogany Splendor with an 18-6-12 slow-release fertilizer. You could also mulch it with cottonseed meal or well-composted leaves to provide nutrition.

Even though Mahogany Splendor will thrive at the edge of a water feature, planting it in a raised bed filled with high organic content soil will help ensure the plant puts on a beautiful foliage show for years to come.

So go ahead and try Mahogany Splendor hibiscus and enjoy this beautiful and colorful plant in your landscape next year.


Released: October 25, 2011
Contact: Dr. Gary Bachman, (228) 546-1009

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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.