Why Exotic Hibiscus are the Perfect Plant for a Drought Tolerant Garden

Huge Amazing Blooms with Show Stopping Colors 

                We only source our plants from Hidden Valley Hibiscus but with over 800 varieties the colors and combinations are endless

             

 

               Huge Blooms Means 7-10" Diameter Flowers             No Other Plant Can Produce Such Large Flowers

The blooms are as big as dinner plates or larger than my hand and head.  Charles Black is currently hybridizing for blooms that can get up to 11" in diameter.  Now that is insane!

 

HVH Exotic Hibiscus Love to Bloom In Mass

So How Did This Happen?

So you are probably thinking: Hibiscus? Seen them before, cute little red, white or yellow blooms located a lot of times on some hotel property trying to look all tropical and colorful. Heck they are synonymous with anything Hawaii and those Hawaiian Luau shirts Don Ho and Elvis made popular back in the day....so what in the world am I seeing here on your website's home page???

Yep those good old garden variety hibiscus we are all familiar with..the kind you get from Home Depot, Lowes and the other large chain garden centers that are usually planted as a compliment to a home's landscaping tucked away in a corner here and there where they can grow without much care. To be pruned whenever your gardeners think those lanky, tall branches are getting too wild looking or start to bend down to the ground. Yep nothing too exciting or new with that so what are these drop dead gorgeous blooms you are showcasing all over such large and lush bushes???

Hibiscus have been hybridized before the turn of the last century in Hawaii and Europe where they were brought back from various expeditions and have been evolving ever since. The above photo shows your typical garden variety hibiscus with medium to small size single color blooms and the usual thin branching with a more open looking bush as it matures and grows larger. The big advances have come in the last 10-20 years as various hybridizers from the US, Australia and a few other countries have started a whole new line of large and colorful blooms labeled as "Exotic or Fancy Hibiscus". The downside is the plants are much harder to grow than the garden variety hibiscus with most having substandard bushes to go with that.  So one must focus on the incredible blooms and not much else...

An example of a substandard exotic hibiscus bush with sparse foliage, blooms that hang down and thin branching

An example of a substandard exotic hibiscus bush with sparse foliage, blooms that hang down and thin branching

A New Paradigm

Enter fellow Southern Californian Charles Black into the mix. Starting out in the 1990s when he first started to commercially sell exotic hibiscus he quickly realized that hibiscus hybridizers were primarily focused on pretty blooms and not paying much attention to the bushes they were growing on. So you would have these large blooms on thin little stems that just fell over or plants that hardly ever bloomed and died easily from diseases and pests. He decided to start his own hybridizing program and do it the right way which consists of enormous amounts of patience, discipline and higher costs. He knew it meant many extra years of hybridizing hibiscus for great bush characteristics first and upon building up a large pool of strong plants he could then focus on crossing to get the large and pretty blooms.

Charles Black - Exotic Hibiscus Hybridizer

Charles Black - Exotic Hibiscus Hybridizer

So what does this mean to you? It means that after 20 years of very hard work and perseverance we now have vigorous, lush, well branched hibiscus bushes that love to bloom and the blooms are very big. In fact the bushes are so nice that even without blooms they are still a lush, gorgeous, symmetric mountain of shiny dark green leaves. Additionally I have spent the last 5 years growing many exotic hibiscus from a host of different hybridizers and without a doubt there is a huge difference when it comes to a whole range of factors that matter when using these plants for landscaping. And with such strong, healthy bushes they are much more resistant to disease and pest problems which is also very important in avoiding or minimizing the use of pesticides and fungicides.

Drought Tolerant

As you have seen by the photos here they really are magnificent bushes in scope and size. Now for what I think is the most amazing part of it all. They don't require much water to look like this. The truth is their ancestry traces back to tropical regions with volcanic soil. Volcanic soil does not contain much true soil and is very rocky and porous allowing for exceptional drainage of water. And in those locales you get very heavy downpours that usually are brief in nature and this is what exotic hibiscus root systems have grown to handle. Plant them in heavy wet soil that does not drain well and lacks lots of air and the plant will get root rot very quickly and die.

We have spent over five years experimenting with how to grow exotic hibiscus in ground year round. Few thought you could grow them outdoors year round anywhere in the continental U.S. but it most certainly can be done here in Southern California! These plants are still very challenging to grow if you haven't spent years working with them but we have worked out a way to not only grow them successfully year round but in a way that is truly drought tolerant. That is the new paradigm for us to grasp when it comes to using these wonderful plants as some of the most striking landscaping one can have.

This is absolutely a fantastic win-win as you can adhere to the drought water use limits and still have a super green, lush landscaping with a multitude of colorful blooms. I feel bad for all of those people and landscapers who have torn out their green landscaping and replaced it with the brown look and the subdued drought tolerant plants...once they start to see what is possible with these plants they might start rethinking what they have done. Below is a comparison of what I commonly see now throughout Southern California and what the next generation of drought tolerant landscaping will bring...

Carbon Absorption Loss Reversed

Another important factor that is critical in our severely drought affected region is the rapidly growing loss of carbon absorbing landscapes. It is understandable that conserving water is the number one priority but without the green landscaping no doubt we are in win-lose situation. It seems highly unlikely that many if not most of the drought tolerant landscaping now being used to replace lawns and other lush green landscapes can absorb the same levels of carbon out of the atmosphere as did the previous landscaping. So it is ground breaking to have plants so lush and green that give us a true win-win with saving vast amounts of water as well as continuing to absorb high levels of carbon. The amount of carbon absorption on the properties with exotic hibiscus must be many times that of the typical drought tolerant landscaping that has become common place now.

Specialized Care a Must

So how does planting and growing exotic hibiscus save enough water to be drought tolerant?

The use of a drip system that injects a very specific mix of fertilizers into the water. Combine this with a very strategic use of specialized soils that varies depending on a set of micro-conditions on each property and you will have a very low use of water for any area they are planted in. To give you an example my hibiscus plants get drip watered for less than 20 minutes a week and that is for the peak hot summer months. In winter that can become even less especially with any rain events. It sounds simple but it is far from it. All native soils are removed and combinations of specialized soils are mixed together to create a proper balance of superior drainage and water retention at the same time. There is an art to figuring out how to achieve two opposite properties in your soil at the same time. This becomes even more crucial with each planted section for both daily and seasonal sun angles involved.

Exotic hibiscus have a strict set of requirements to grow successfully outdoors year round and we have spent the last six years figuring this out. So we provide ongoing plant care and maintenance once we install a garden for you. We strongly recommend purchasing our comprehensive full service plant maintenance package each week to ensure you get the garden of your dreams.

Other Great Partner Plants

Through the course of field trials and research we have discovered there are other great plants that grow in the same conditions as exotic hibiscus.  What is important is to have complimentary plants that not also flourish in the same sort of soil and watering circumstances but also do not negatively impact plants around them with things like excessive leaf drop, root intrusion, outcompeting for sun, etc...Some clients are so enthralled with exotic hibiscus that is all they want in certain sections of their property while others are looking for a sensible blend of like-minded plants. We have found that plumeria trees and citrus trees work great with exotic hibiscus. 

Plumeria are outstanding since they like the same fertilizer mix and soil conditions but what really sets them apart are two factors.  First off they are another blooming machine set among rich green foliage so they add another cheerful element to your garden.  Second many plumeria are scented so we can add in that sensory delight to your landscaping (they are still working on incorporating scent into exotic hibiscus).  Lastly plumeria create a nice canopy for hibiscus in the summer and lose their leaves in the winter so the hibiscus can get the sun and heat when they need it the most.  Great synergy!