Which plant is literally on fire in our Coastal Maine garden right now? Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel.’ I admittedly ordered this hardy hibiscus on a whim when we needed to add some more late season color to our new planting beds. It is not a strictly tropical plant (in fact it is hardy to zone 4), but with its huge bright flowers – it looks like one.
Designing with Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’
After looking through the availability listings, this one sounded like it would go with our new plantings which included dark-leaved Phormium, ‘Black Madras’ (‘Jack Spratt’ is a similar dark leaved phormium that would work too), bright red kangaroo paws , and stop-light red Coreopsis. (the phormium and the kangaroo paws are both plants you would more commonly find in a tropical garden – but we have successfully grown them in our temperate Maine coastal garden)
When we got the plants, midnight marvel immediately caught our guests attention. This hibiscus has a dark red leaf color like that of some of the non-hardy Hibiscus acetosella cultivars. Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’ differs from H. acetosella in that it does not have dissected leaves. The leaves are over 6″ wide and a deep, wine-red.
Planting Hardy Hibiscus
As with most red leaved plants, be sure to site this plant in full sun so it captures as many of the ultraviolet rays as are available. Too much shade will cause the foliage to look pale, weak, and exhibit spotty orange colors. Hardy hibiscus is triggered to bloom by warm weather and a long growing season – so in the north it typically starts flowering in August.
As summer went on, our plants continued to grow and are now over 4 feet tall. Various reports state that these plants will ultimately reach 6 feet tall so we will monitor its growth over the coming years.
The real show is once it starts to flower. Gorgeous, 8″ wide hibiscus flowers emerge from various spots on the plant. The flowers are a bright red that stops our guests in their tracks.
The best thing about this Hibiscus…
Whenever I am talking with folks about these plants, I always throw in the fact that they are perennials. No one can believe that they are a cold hardy hibiscus to at least USDA zone 5. (but they are!) The flowers are reminiscent of the Chinese hibiscus which only grows in tropical areas.
This cold hardy hibiscus is a nativar in much of the USA. These giant blooms and tropical flowers grow natively in wetlands, along streams and in boggy areas where they get plenty of water. If you have a sunny but soggy part of your garden, they would be a great choice. If they actual tropics appeal to you, but you can’t get there often enough, making your garden feel a bit more like a tropical getaway is a nice alternative. Hardy hibiscus, combined with some other large leafed plants (cannas, elephant ear, palms, etc) can help to create a tropical garden anywhere.
There are, BTW, a wide range of other colors in the hardy hibiscus world – the flowers all generally huge, and in shades and combinations of pinks, whites, reds, purples and burgundy.
Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’ is a hybrid between H. ‘Cranberry Crush’ and H. ‘Summer Storm.’ From these two plants, the ‘Midnight Marvel’ gets its dark foliage and big, bright-red flowers. The combination is amazing and this may well be one of the top perennial introductions in years.
Images: Wayside Gardens, Lost In The Flowers