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What Is Hibiscus Moscheutos?

By Sandi Johnson
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Hibiscus moscheutos, also known as rose mallow or swamp-rose mallow, is a member of the Malvaceae family of flowering plants. Cold-hardy and perennial, it is a subspecies of hibiscus native to North America. Flower colors range from white to dark pink, with a characteristic dark red, maroon, or burgundy center. Owing to the dark red center of most of its blooms, the plant is sometimes referenced as a crimson-eyed rose mallow. Size and structure regulate the plant to be categorized as a subshrub.

When planted along riverbanks, around ponds, or near water gardens, Hibiscus moscheutos grows up to 60 inches (152 cm). Of all perennials, this species has the largest flower, with certain cultivars reaching a flower width of more than 9 inches (23 cm). Leaf colors and shapes range from medium green heart shapes to deep glossy green with a shape similar to maple leaves. Plant spread typically averages approximately 3 feet (1 meter.) Blooms typically appear in late June or early July and remaining in full bloom until late August.

Butterflies are often attracted to the large flowers and heavy foliage of the Hibiscus moscheutos, making the plant a favorite for parks and home gardens. In terms of favored environment, Hibiscus moscheutos colonizes primarily in wetlands or near large water sources where moist conditions are common. For public or private gardens without a pond, bog, or other water source, the plant requires sandy, loamy soil. Soil must be well drained, but kept moist and watered regularly. Regardless of location, the plant needs full sun exposure, as blooms and plant growth reduce in shady conditions.

Most often found in the southeastern region of the United States, commercial availability of Hibiscus moscheutos through nurseries and similar plant suppliers has helped perpetuate the plant along the eastern US coast and into Ontario. Canada has listed certain varieties of hibiscus in the Species at Risk Act, with Hibiscus moscheutos listed as a species of concern due to low colony populations within Canada. Alternatively, other international scientific conservation organizations have listed the plant as secure worldwide.

Numerous varieties and subspecies of Hibiscus moscheutos have been crossed by hobby gardeners and botanists alike. Each variety carries a different common name, usually given by the breeder. Although variations are common, all are hybrids of H. moscheutos. Binomial names of hybrids are still classified as Hibiscus moscheutos, with only common names differing between subspecies. Some common names and varieties include Wild Cotton, Bourdeaux, Blue River, Eastern Rose Mallow, and Hibiscus x.

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