How to Grow and Care for 'Perfect Storm' Hibiscus

Perfect Storm Hibiscus

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'Perfect Storm' hardy hibiscus, a compact hybrid cultivar of a Hibiscus moscheutos hybrid, is part of the Proven Winners Summerific® series. With a mature height of about 3 feet, 'Perfect Storm' is roughly half the size of its larger cousin, making it a better choice for smaller gardens and landscapes. Like other types of hardy hibiscus, 'Perfect Storm' has a long, late bloom season, beginning in mid-summer and continuing into early fall. The large 7- to 8-inch are white with a dark red eye that radiates to the veins with petals edged in pale pink. Individual blooms are short-lived but are quickly followed by more blossoms. Foliage is a very dark purple, almost black, which highlights the bright blooms.

'Perfect Storm' is best planted as a container-grown nursery specimen in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. It is slow to grow each spring, among the last plants to sprout and develop, but it then grows quickly and can shoot up to 3 feet by the time it blooms in mid-summer.

Common Name 'Perfect Storm' hardy hibiscus, rose mallow, swamp mallow
Botanical Name Hibiscus 'Perfect Storm'
Family Malvaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 2–3 ft. tall, 4–5 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Rich, medium-to-wet moisture
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Late summer
Flower Color White with pink and red tinges
Hardiness Zones 4–9 (USDA)
Native Area Hybrid cultivar, no native range; parent species native to North America
Perfect Storm Hibiscus

Fotolinchen / Getty Images

Hibiscus perfect storm foliage
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'Perfect Storm' Hibiscus Care

Plant 'Perfect Sun' in a sunny location in well-draining soil that is well-amended with organic material to help retain moisture. If planting in mass, space plants about 5 feet apart.

Even though this plant functions as a small shrub during the summer, it is a herbaceous perennial. This means it will die back completely to ground level in winter before re-emerging with new growth next spring. 'Perfect Storm' will be one of the last perennials to push up new shoots in the spring (sometime in late May or June in a USDA zone 4 or zone 5 landscape, for example), so do not give up when it hasn't come back to life at the same time as the other herbaceous perennials in your landscape.

In spring as new stem growth begins to emerge, use a strong pair of loppers or a saw to cut down to ground level any woody stems remaining from last year.  Do not prune or trim this plant in the fall.

Light

Hardy hibiscus will bloom best if located in full sun, which means six to eight hours of directly sunlight per day. It tolerates some light shade, but full sun with good air circulation produces the most flowers and strongest stems. 

Soil

This plant prefers moist, but not waterlogged soil. While 'Perfect Storm' hibiscus will survive in soil of average fertility, it will perform better in more fertile conditions. If soil is not fertile, spread and mix in soil amendments annually.

Water

Water enough to keep the soil consistently moist, provided the soil drains well. In good rich soil, about 1 inch of water per week is usually sufficient, but dry soil may require more frequent watering. To help with water retention as well as drainage, mix compost into the soil. Do not let the soil dry out, as this can lead to leaf scorch.

Temperature and Humidity

Like most hardy hibiscus, 'Perfect Storm' thrives in zones 5 to 9. It can usually survive in zone 4, if the roots are protected for the winter with mulch. The hybrid types are often more cold-hardy than the species.

'Perfect Storm' thrives in heat and sun, but this moisture-loving plant must be kept well hydrated. It is quite tolerant of both dry and humid atmospheric conditions, provided the soil is kept moist.

Fertilizer

To keep the plant well-fed, use a balanced fertilizer. Follow instructions on the package to feed your plants once a year in spring. Always water well after applying fertilizer. Avoid phosphorus-heavy fertilizers, as this can damage plants and reduce flowering.

Types of Hardy Hibiscus

'Perfect Storm' is one popular cultivar derived from a hybrid cross that includes Hibiscus moscheutos, a species native to damp wetlands of North America, as a key parent. Other cultivars of this particular hybrid offer different flower colors, improved hardiness range, and different heights. Some popular ones include:

  • 'Disco Belle White' grows to 30 inches, with pure white flowers with red centers.
  • 'Fireball' has bright red flowers and can grow as much as 6 feet tall.
  • 'Luna Pink Swirl' has white flowers with pink swirls, with raspberry pink centers. It grows to 3 feet tall. The Luna series also includes 'Luna White', 'Luna Blush', and 'Luna Red', with similar growth habits.
  • 'Southern Belle' has flowers that show traces of white, pink, and red, on plants that grow 3 feet tall. It has very large flowers, 8 to 10 inches across.

In addition, there are several other hybrid hibiscuses that also have H. moscheutos as one of the parents:

  • 'Lady Baltimore' has deep pink flowers with red centers. It grows as much as 6 feet tall and is hardy in zones 5 to 9.
  • 'Pinot Grigio' has large 10-inch white flowers tinged with pink, with small wine-red centers. Hardy in zones 5 to 9, it grows to 30 inches tall.
  • 'Old Yella' has extremely large (up to 10-inch) white flowers containing a tinge of yellow, with dark red centers. It grows to 4 feet and is hardy in zones 4 to 9.
  • 'Cherry Cheesecake' flowers are large, up to 8 inches in diameter, with a magenta or cherry red center surrounded by pinkish-white; plants grow to 5 feet tall.
  • 'Cranberry Crush' has solid scarlet flowers, 7 to 8 inches in diameter; plants grow to 4 feet tall.
  • 'Berry Awesome' is a tall cultivar that grows to 4 feet tall and produces large 7- to 8-inch ruffled, lavender-pink flowers with a cherry red eye.
Pink hardy hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus moscheutos)
Pink hardy hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Photos from Japan, Asia and othe of the world / Getty Images

white Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)
Arkela / Getty Images
Hibiscus moscheutos plant with pink petals in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Pruning

In the late spring, trim off the dead stems to a few inches above the ground as new shoots are beginning to emerge. Hardy hibiscus plants do not require pruning beyond this, but trimming off the tips when stems are about 12 inches tall can make the plants flower more profusely. As with most perennials, deadheading spent flowers can prompt more blooms.

Propagating 'Perfect Storm' Hibiscus

Although the original 'Perfect Storm' hibiscus is not copyright protected, it is is is usually sold in a trademarked form, such as Summerific® 'Perfect Storm. As such, it should not be propagated in any way, vegetatively or by collected seeds. Doing so could potentially lead to legal action, especially if plants are shared with others or offered for sale.

Other, non-protected cultivars of the H. moscheutos hybrids are best propagated by rooting stem cuttings. This is best done in late spring or early summer, after new growth has begun. Here's how to do it:

  1. Using sharp pruners, cut a section of softwood stem 3 to 5 inches long. Remove the flowers, leaves, and any buds from the bottom half of the cutting.
  2. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone, Plant the cutting in a small pot filled with a mixture of standard commercial potting mix and perlite.
  3. Moisten the potting mix, then place the potted cutting in a loosely secured plastic back to hold in moisture.
  4. Place the cutting in a location with bright, diffused light, at a temperature of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Periodically check the potting mix and moisten if necessary.
  5. Within about eight weeks, new leaves should begin to appear, indicating that the cutting has begun developing roots. At this time, repot the rooted cutting into a larger pot filled with potting mix
  6. Continue to grow the cutting. In cold-winter regions, move the pot to a sheltered location (cold frame or unheated porch) for the winter.
  7. Plant the new specimen in the garden in spring, after all danger of frost has passed.

Potting & Repotting 'Perfect Storm' Hibiscus

Like other hardy hibiscus cultivars, 'Perfect Storm' adapts well to being grown year-round in containers on a deck or patio. Choose a fairly large container, with a diameter at least 8 inches larger than the root ball. This will provide enough space so the plant can go two or three years before repotting. The pot can be of any material, but plastic is a good choice as it holds in moisture well, which is appreciated by these moisture-loving plants.

The pot should have at least one drainage hole, but these plants don't mind a consistently moist soil. Use a good peat-based potting mix, which has good moisture-retaining properties. Plant the specimen so that the root ball sits on several inches of potting mix, with the top of the root ball about 1 inch below the lip of the pot. Backfill with potting mix, and cover the surface with bark chips to conserve moisture.

When grown in pots, 'Perfect Storm' will need frequent watering to satisfy its needs for moist conditions. This can mean daily watering during hot weather. It will also require monthly feeding with diluted fertilizer.

Potted hibiscus tends to flower best if its roots are slightly root-bound. You can usually go two or three years before repotting, and when you do, move up to a pot only slightly larger.

Overwintering

'Perfect Storm' hibiscus is generally reliably hardy in zones 5 to 9, and zone 4 gardeners can usually grow it successfully if they cover it in the winter with a good layer of dry mulch, such as straw or pine boughs. Do not cut down the stems until new growth begins the following spring, as these stems help mark the location of these late-sprouting plants.

Getting 'Perfect Storm' Hibiscus to Bloom

If fed each spring and placed in a sunny location, 'Perfect Storm' will generally bloom continually from mid-summer into fall. Each blossom lasts just a day, but new ones are steadily produced. If they fail to bloom, possible reasons include:

  • Plant is not getting enough sun. Ideally, they need six to eight hours of direct sun per day in order to bloom robustly.
  • Soil is not fertile enough. While once a year feeding in the spring is normally enough, in poor soil, an extra feeding may stimulate blossoming for plants that were languishing.
  • Plant is getting too much phosphorus. Hardy hibiscus is sensitive to phosphorus, and may withhold flowers if the soil builds up too much of this mineral. When feeding this plant, use a balanced fertilizer, not a phosphorus-heavy formulation.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

By far the most common pest with Hibiscus moscheutos and other hardy hibiscus cultivars is Japanese beetles. They are best handled by picking them off by hand or spraying with a horticultural oil. Other insect pest include sawflies, whiteflies, mealybugs, and aphids, which can be handled by spraying with neem oil.

Hardy hibiscus can be susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases, including leaf spot, rust, and canker diseases. These can often be avoided if you make sure to water at ground level rather than splashing water from overhead. Plants that do become infected with fungal diseases can be treated with a copper-based fungicide.

Common Problems With 'Perfect Storm' Hibiscus

Hardy hibiscuses like 'Perfect Storm' are normally rather easy to grow, aside from the pest and disease issues (see above). But if you notice the leaves scorching and turning brown along the edges, it is likely because the soil is too dry. Blending in organic material such as compost or peat moss can relieve this problem.

'Perfect Storm' is a relatively short cultivar that is less likely to flop than other types. But it can become leggy if grown in shady conditions, and in this case, may need to be staked or caged.

FAQ
  • How can I use this plant in the landscape?

    'Perfect Storm' makes a good plant for the back of mixed perennial border beds, or it can be massed for a spectacular effect. Because it is fond of moist soil, it can make a good plant for rain gardens or along streams and ponds. It can also make a good specimen plant, or a potted specimen on a deck or patio.

  • Is hardy hibiscus invasive?

    No. Although it looks like an exotic tropical plant, the species used to create hybrid hardy hibiscus are native to the Southern and Southeastern U.S. They are well-behaved plants that can be planted without concern that they might spread uncontrollably.

  • How long does a hardy hibiscus live?

    Hybrid types of hardy hibiscus typically live five to ten years, while older species types have been known to live up to 50 years. By regular propagation, though, you can ensure that you'll have 'Perfect Storm' in your garden for many, many years.

Article Sources
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  2. How To Plant, Prune, Fertilize, Water And Care For Hardy Perennial Hibiscus Plants. Wilson Bros. Gardens.

  3. Hibiscus Moscheutos. Missouri Botanical Garden

  4. How to Grow and Care for Hardy HIbiscus. Gardener's Path.