On Gardening: 2021’s Year of the Hardy Hibiscus was a sensational hit


The Garden Guy would like to officially declare 2022 Encore Year of the Hardy Hibiscus. I don’t know how the National Garden Bureau judges the success of any particular year’s celebration, but I am feeling that Summerific French Vanilla helped Old Norm hit it out of the park in 2021!

One of my best friends from Louisiana had been visiting Southern trial locations and excitedly sent me a photo of Summerific French Vanilla from Mississippi State University’s trials at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs. Although French Vanilla made its debut in 2021, I was lucky enough to get one. Those first blooms showed me why he was so excited.

It wasn’t hard to see a little of that native DNA, but this is a far cry from the hibiscus in the Mississippi ditch. French Vanilla is the perfect name for this new flower in the Summerific series. Creamy with an exquisite ruffled wavy texture and burgundy eye, it’s a floral portrait of unbelievable beauty. I daresay there is not a white tropical hibiscus that can match its elegance.

At the start of last spring, I was only growing Summerific Holy Grail. In addition to French Vanilla, I also added the new Spinderella and the absolutely gorgeous Berry Awesome from the Summerific series. The Garden Guy is sun-challenged, so I will never have those catalog-type photos with 50 flowers on one bush. Mine are nonetheless beautiful, however, and play an integral part in the partnerships I create.

The new Summerific Spinderella gives a pinwheel-like look. It is best described as a white hibiscus with swirling pink accented edges and a dark red eye. Spinderella is slightly larger at 54 inches and 60 inches wide. I grew mine in proximity to Heart to Hear Tickle Me Pink caladiums, hydrangeas and azaleas.

I use the Summerific Holy Grail in a couple of different ways. First, I have a couple as the backdrop to my pollinator garden, which I suppose really looks like a perennial garden. While showy, the deep scarlet blooms and dark foliage also show off the partnerships. I also use it alongside a walkway leading to a swing in a tropical setting with bananas and elephant ears.

Lastly, I did mention Summerific Berry Awesome as being gorgeous, which is no doubt the reason it is a Proven Winners top seller. The blooms are dark lavender pink with a red eye. In one area, its main partner was lime green from Sweet Caroline Illusion Emerald Lace ornamental sweet potato. In another area an Aqua Blue container packed with annuals is in the distance, creating an eye-popping contrast.

Just think, you will have these colorful 7- to 8-inch blooms year after year as they are perennial from zones 4-9. Many of you will be thrilled to also know these are not on Bambi’s menu. Almost the entire country can relish their beauty. Choose a location with plenty of sun. I’ve already mentioned my dilemma of shifting morning sun and filtered afternoon light. It could be a little better, but The Garden Guy is thrilled with the performance.

These hibiscus bloom on new growth, so it is important to keep them growing. My blooms ranged from mid-June to the end of August, so there is good reason to provide what they need. We don’t need a superbloom-type fertilizer, but one that is slow-released and balanced. I use light applications every four to six weeks, so check your formula recommendations. Feeding is particularly important if you are growing the hibiscus as a thriller plant in a mixed container that gets watered daily. These nutrients get leached out rather quickly, so make feeding a regular part of your regimen.

The Garden Guy hopes you will try several Summerific hibiscus in your landscape and make it a point to plan your partnerships like you would a salvia for the most fun and enjoyment. I am hoping to get my hands on Summerific Valentine’s Crush, which will make its debut in 2023.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

This story was originally published January 6, 2022 4:00 AM.

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