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New foliage colors and better habits prove there’s more to them than their huge blooms

Fine Gardening – Issue 176

Few perennials are as flamboyant as hibiscus. Their flowers can be up to 10 inches wide or larger, which is inconceivable for something that’s not tropical. Hibiscuses have been in gardens for a long time, but with all the recent enhancements in flower colors and sizes, foliage shapes and hues, and compact habits, they’re not the same as grandma’s plants anymore. Although I think they’re fun and the perfect antidote to fussy landscapes, my impression is that people either love them or hate them. The gigantic flowers are exotic and charismatic to some, while others find them too big and garish.

Their size isn’t the only thing that’s not subtle. They put their sex right in your face: The male and female reproductive parts are held on long bottle brushes that protrude from the centers of the flowers with a bright red bull’s-eye marking the base of…

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