Don't let the name throw you off! This bright flower blooms beautifully.

By Lauren Wellbank
September 10, 2020
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hibiscus moscheutos swamp rose mallow white and pink flower
Credit: Getty / igaguri_1

The swamp rose mallow, also known as hibiscus moscheutos, is a hibiscus species that is native to much of the Southeastern United States. The brightly colored flowers, which come in a range of hues from white to red, make their appearance in mid-summer and stick around until the cooler days of fall. There are also several hybrid versions of the hibiscus (which is also known as Dinner Plate Hibiscus thanks to its large blooms), called the Southern Belle and Dixie Bell.

Where to Grow Hibiscus Moscheutos

If you live in a southern state like Florida, Joel Crippen, display garden horticulturist at Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach County, says that the rose mallow species of hibiscus can grow year-round. However, in cooler climates, the plant acts more as a perennial that goes dormant when the temperature falls. "[It's a] cold-hardy perennial to zone five where it dies back to the ground and re-emerges in the spring."

Creating the Right Environment

Hibiscus moscheutos prefer moist environments, according to Chad Husby, Ph.D. and chief explorer at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. "This is a plant of wet areas, as its name implies so unlike many of our garden plants, it actually likes to have wet feet," Husby explains. "However, it does not require saturated soils and will also thrive in moist garden soil as long as it is not allowed to dry out." For the best results, he says to make sure your plant is receiving as much sunlight as possible. "Full sun will produce [the] best appearance and flower production but it can tolerate some light shade."

Giving Your Plant a Boost

According to Crippen, you won't need to give your swamp rose mallow much in the way of fertilizer if you've planted it in humus rich soil. "If fertilizer is needed, especially if grown along a waterway, use an encapsulated slow release fertilizer (i.e. Nutricote or Dynamite) to reduce possible water pollution." Husby agrees and adds that, depending on the type of fertilizer you use, the frequency should be adjusted. This is especially true if you're using a liquid variety. For liquid applications, he suggests applying it more frequently than the standard bi-weekly recommendation.

Care and Pruning

With careful pruning, you can coax your swamp rose mallow into producing more leaves and flowers. "If one wants plants with a bushier habit and more branches and flowers, early pruning is important before the plant is a foot tall," explains Husby. "Because it is so fast growing, pruning decisions need to be made early in the season to affect the final form." And watch out for invasive pests. "Beware, like most hibiscus, they are a favorite treat for Iguanas," says Crippen.

How to Get Your Own Swamp Rose Mallow

You can pick up a more mature plant from your local nursery, which will allow you to have more say over the color you end up with according to Crippen. "Seed takes longer to flower but can offer you more plants in a greater variety of colors."

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