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November 8, 2011 > Pat Kite's Garden: Hibiscus hints

Pat Kite's Garden: Hibiscus hints

By Pat Kite

My friend Francine has a beautiful Hibiscus she grew from a twig. If somebody gives me a cutting of anything, even a weed, it takes one look at me and tries to demise. What has Francine got that I haven't? Patience, that's what.

For some obscure reason, I presume that if I wander around my overgrown garden, managing to locate a rare empty spot, it's possible to just plop in a cutting and somehow it will be a lovely flowering plant soon, maybe even overnight. Francine studies a cutting, pots it up according to book rules, gives it good soil, regular water, sun as needed, and then admires it each day, as is proper. She doesn't get discouraged if growth is slow. I get discouraged, and then do the same inane thing with the next donated twig.

Anyhow, if you want to grow a Hibiscus from a cutting, give it a try. Each cutting should be the length and width of a pencil. Remove all but the two top leaves. Place cuttings in a container holding a few inches of tepid water. Some folks insist on utilizing rooting hormone, others add a few drops of Hydrogen Peroxide to the water. Put cuttings in a well lighted, but not sunny, site. Change the water about once a week. You should see roots about four weeks later. A month or two later, when you see lots of roots, you can transplant into one or more pots filled with good potting soil. You can keep this indoors in a well-lit spot until the weather is no longer cold.

Hibiscus are tropical plants. Outdoors, place your hearty cutting in a sunny sheltered area with good drainage. Don't forget to water. There are at least 300 species or types of Hibiscus. For garden purposes, Hibiscus syriacus [deciduous] and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis [evergreen] are usually grown as shrubs. The colorful large flowers, single or double, come in almost any color. Mature plants vary in size from five to about 10 feet tall and several feet wide.

Hibiscus may have been given its name by long-ago folk who watched the beautiful Ibis wading bird feeding on hibiscus plants; it is Hawaii's state flower. A red Hibiscus behind a woman's left ear means, "I desire a lover." Behind her right ear, "I already have a lover." Behind both ears? "I have a lover but want another." Flowers are always chatting about something, if you take the time to listen.

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