Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The great hibiscus mystery

Last summer, I purchased a pretty yellow hibiscus at my local Lowe's garden center.

The plant was very healthy and blooming when I bought it and it continued to bloom when I brought it home. All summer and autumn, it lived in a pot on the little patio near the entry to our house. It had an eastern exposure and received morning sun for a few hours but was shielded by the shadow of the house for much of the day.

It continued to be healthy and produced bloom after bloom, even forgiving me when I forgot to water it regularly. It was still in bloom when the first early freeze came on December 4. It was outside during that freeze and later dropped some of its leaves and stopped blooming, but it stayed green and kept a good number of leaves.

Belatedly, I took it and another hibiscus that I had kept on the patio into the garage for the winter. And there it stayed for many long weeks.

When the weather began to warm again, I brought it out into the sun. I had decided to put it into the ground in a new bed I had created on the south side of the house. The spot I had chosen for it was protected by the house on one side and the wooden fence on the other. I thought it should be able to withstand even quite cold weather in this location.

I planted it in the bed and almost immediately it started putting on new leaves and began to look like its old sturdy self once again. Last week, I noticed that it was covered in buds and I looked forward to seeing that first lovely yellow blossom this spring.

Imagine my surprise then when I walked through my garden gate this morning, glanced at the plant and saw this!

Who are you and what have you done with my yellow hibiscus???

Not only had the color changed but the bloom seemed smaller than last year as well. Now I know that some plants change the color of their blooms according to the Ph or other factors in the soil, hydrangeas being the prime example of that. But I had not heard that hibiscus plants could or would do that. Is that what happened here?

I turned to my old friend Google and, as usual, he had the answer for me.

It seems that there is an awful lot I didn't know about hibiscus blossoms and their color. They can change their color based on the soil, the weather, or the season of the year. Probably other factors as well. This is one whimsical plant!

So, I'm guessing that the fact that my plant suffered through a quite cold winter and then went from its safe little pot into the actual ground, and the weather was warmer, then cool again, then slowly warming after it was planted in the earth - all of these factors together, or perhaps any one of them, has caused the plant to change its color of bloom. As all those other buds on the plant begin to open, I will be very interested to see if they are all in this new color or if some of them revert to the old yellow or if perhaps some of them discover a new hue altogether. From what Google tells me almost anything is possible.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the bed where this hibiscus now lives, I planted another hibiscus from last year.

This one, too, spent the winter in its pot in the garage. It suffered some damage from that December freeze and is coming back slowly. It's nowhere near ready to bloom yet, but when it does, I wonder what color it will be? Yellow, maybe?

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