Planting up your Spanish Garden – Hibiscus

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe – gardeners in Spain for over twenty years.

Why hibiscus?

For four simple reasons.

  • Firstly there are hibiscus for all situations in Spain some of which should be more widely known and promoted by garden centres.
  • Secondly they are also fairly easy to raise from cuttings and in some cases from seeds if friends already have the plants.
  • Thirdly their flowers are exotic.
  • Fourthly we promised listeners to our gardening spot on REM radio earlier this week that we would.

The most hardy varieties of hibiscus – ok to well below zero.

  • The deciduous Hibiscus Syriacus varieties that graced our Windsor Garden . The three white red throated shrubs in our garden are covered with flowers from June to September. They were grown from cuttings some twenty years ago when the garden was in it’s infancy).
    Blue, purple and white species grace several public areas of our village.
  • The tree or spreading bush Hibiscus Mutibilis often called cotton rose as its flowers look like fluffy balls of cotton white that start white and change to pink as they mature. The trees are especially impressive when in full flower with a mix of white, white and pink and fully pink flowers. Our two trees flower in September through to October.

Semi hardy varieties of hibiscus – withstand a few degrees of frost

  • The elegant specimen flowered Hibiscus Coccineus a marsh/pond plant originally from what is now Florida and Georgia in the USA. We now have ten plants – eight raised from own collected seeds – on the shallow margins of our two ponds.
  • The single and double red flowered varieties of Hibiscus Rosa Sinsensis thought to have originally come from counties surrounding and islands in the Indian Ocean . These are the exotic plants used in many gardens and as garden and street lining hedges.

The more tender varieties of hibiscus

  • The white, yellow, orange and pink flowered versions of Hibiscus Rosa Sinsensis. If your garden is in a frost belt it is often best to use these as annuals or plant in containers that can be moved to a green house during the winter months. The flowers can be dried for the preparation of interesting infusions and when we visited the Botanical Gardens outside Havana Cuba we lunched on a hibiscus flower salad …yes with no other ingredients except for a light salad oil. It was different and delicious so the flowers now often grace our summer salads for decoration and eating by ourselves and adventurous guests. Try them yourselves!

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe August 2008