Requiem For A Rosemallow

A while ago, I wrote about a favorite plant in my gardens, the Lemon Rosemallow, Hibiscus calyphyllus.

The Rosemallow is still one of my favorite summer bloomers, but sadly, my original plant appears to be dying.  One-by-one, in this past month or so, the leaves have turned yellow and wilted.

Within two weeks of the first looking-like-it-needs-water symptoms,

…the entire branch, with leaves, has turned crispy and died.

Even as the stems die off, the remaining dwindling-in-number healthy stems have continued to produce blooms.  Such a stalwart, stoic little hibiscus.

I don’t know why the plant is dying–it may simply be that Rosemallow is not long-lived here in Central Texas. Rosemallow is not native, though it’s considered an appropriate landscape perennial for many places, including Central Texas.   It was one of the best bloomers during the hellish 2011 summer of record heat and drought and it returned vigorously after our hard winter this past year.  In between,  I’ve been impressed with this lovely, but tough perennial because of its graceful form and constant blooming, coupled with its ability to shrug off drought conditions.

I’m trimming off the afflicted stems as they die,

….and  have only three left stems left.  Those stems will be gone soon–I can see the necrosis of the leaves beginning.

I’m sorry that this plant is at the end of its days, but I’m philosophical about my gardens and the plants I grow, even when an adored plant dies:  it’s not the end of the world, there are way bigger problems than silly garden issues and the death of one plant is an opportunity to try something new.  Or not.  But I think in this case, as much as I’ve enjoyed the Rosemallow in that spot, I’m going with something different.

Just because.

A gardening friend is gifting to me some Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum.  I know that Garlic Chives are aggressive in the garden, but bees relish the blossoms and that mitigates any negative issues I might have with the plants.  I’ll be a good  gardener parent and practice tough love;  I’ll  make sure that the Chives don’t get out of hand and annex more than their assigned garden spaces.

Remember that statement when I’m complaining in four years that the Garlic Chives are everywhere.

I planted a new Rosemallow earlier this summer in a different part of my gardens,

…and it’s doing well.  It’s grown, bloomed several times, and is filling out beautifully.  I’ll  let the idea of planting another Rosemallow somewhere else rumble around in my head for a while and maybe figure out another spot for some future planting date.

For now though, I’ll say a fond goodbye to a beloved perennial and its beautiful flowers.


Pretty Lemon Yellow Rosemallow

Some call it Yellow Rosemallow.

Others refer to it as Lemon Yellow Rosemallow.

I usually call it Rosemallow.

The proper botanical name is Hibiscus calyphyllus.  Whatever you want to call this beautiful warm-season bloomer, you should welcome it to the palette of your garden choices, planted either in the ground or in a container.

Here in Austin, Texas, zone 8b, it grows and blooms from late spring, throughout summer and into the fall.  Rosemallow dies to the ground during a hard freeze, but returns from its roots in spring as long as it’s well-mulched.

This plant is not native to North America.  It hails from Central to South Africa, but has naturalized in many places in the world.  I became familiar with Lemon Rosemallow when I was working at the Green Garden at Zilker Botanical Gardens (ZBG).  I was  researching out-of-the-ordinary, hardy, non-invasive shade bloomers that weren’t already in abundance at the Gardens.   I purchased plants for the Green Garden at the excellent, locally owned Barton Springs Nursery (BSN) and one of BSN’s knowledgeable  employees suggested  I try Lemon Rosemallow.  The employee showed me a BSN  Rosemallow specimen planted under a large shade tree.

The Rosemallow was full of blooms and I was smitten.

A full, but loose and airy shrub, it sports large tropical-looking leaves and  showcases large hibiscus-like flowers.

What’s not to love about that?

For reasons I no longer remember, I never bought one for the Green Garden. But I eventually purchased one for myself.  I planted it in a relatively new extension of an established bed.  It’s been three or four years since I planted the Rosemallow and my adoration of this lovely, long-blooming perennial continues.

From April to November, this perennial hosts blooms almost everyday. Large lemon-yellow petals with a deep burgundy middle.

The flowers open slowly in the morning.

The peak of the blooms occurs mid-day.

The blooms close in late afternoon.

Three to four flowers open most days during Rosemallow’s long growing season; I usually snip off spent blooms to promote continual flower development. In my garden, the Rosemallow receives morning to mid-afternoon sun in the summer and a bit less than that during the fall.  My Rosemallow is not planted in shade, though I consider it in a part-shade situation. For its first years it remained evergreen during winters.  This past winter, which was a colder than recent ones, the perennial froze to the ground.

In spring it returned from its roots, fuller than ever.

While researching this plant for use in Central Texas, couldn’t find any definitive information about Rosemallow’s deer resistance. Other commonly utilized Malvaceae/mallow plants in Central Texas are considered moderately deer resistant.

At most, Rosemallow only needs average irrigation–maybe a thorough soaking twice-per-month for typical (not rocky) soil. During the record hot and dry summer of 2011, my Rosemallow was a champion bloomer and with minimal watering.  This is an easy, no-fuss perennial.

I haven’t noticed any disease or insect problems with this plant, though my blooms often host some ants.  They ants don’t negatively affect the blooms or foliage and I don’t think the ants are eating aphids.  Maybe they just like hanging out on pretty flowers?

I’ve observed butterflies and moths at the blooms, though in my gardens, Rosemallow isn’t a strong attractor of pollinators.

Really, it’s just for me.

Since the Rosemallow is in the Malvaceae (mallow) family, I thought it would be fun to plant it alongside its kin, an established Turk’s Cap.

You can see from this photo, that the leaves of the two plants are almost identical, except that the Turk’s Cap leaves are larger and have something munching on them.  Drat!

At a quick glance, it looks like the Turk’s Cap has big, yellow blooms.

Because Rosemallow can disappear in winter, I planted mine with evergreens as companions:  Soft-leaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia,  Pink Skullcap, Scutellaria suffrutescens, Iris, Thyme and  Fall Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium.  Given Rosemallow’s loosey-goosy growing habit, it’s a good idea to plant it with at least some architectural plants–yucca, grasses and the like.

Try this hardy and beautiful hibiscus in your garden.

Then sit back and enjoy its beauty.