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Hidden Valley Hibiscus
Growers & Hybridizers of Exotic, Tropical Hibiscus
Volume 15, Issue 7
July 2014

News from Hidden Valley Hibiscus

Exotic Hibiscus 'Expect Miracles' is a Super Bloomer!

Exotic Hibiscus 'Pinot Noir' in Page Border

'Moonlight Sonata'

'The Big Apple'


Hi to all our Fellow Hibiscus Lovers!

Summer is here and hibiscus are blooming like crazy! Water, water, water, water! Remember that in high heat, hibiscus need extra water.

We are happy to announce a new Southern California Hibiscus Club! Bookmark this link for announcements and information as it becomes available. This is a great development because we have never had a hibiscus group in Southern California. If you would like to help with the formation of the club or if you would like the club to email you directly with information, reply to this newsletter or use the contact form on our website, and put "S. Calif. Hibiscus Club" in the subject line.

We got so much positive email in response to our hibiscus myths last month, that we thought we would continue with more Hibiscus Myths Debunked this month. We chose three more myths that came in as questions from recent customer email. It's amazing how prevalent some of these myths are, and how damaging.

While we're on the subject of mythology, we thought it would be fun to share some Hibiscus Myths and Legends from around the world. Hibiscus are ancient flowers that have been part of ancient lore all across the tropical parts of the world since much longer than humans can remember. We hope you enjoy these stories.

And of course, don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the email to see our newest Seedling of the Month.

Happy summer to all!

Charles & Cindy Black

'Malibu Summer'

'My Blue Heaven'

'Beach Beauty'


More Hibiscus Myths Debunked

We got so much email about our hibiscus myths last month, including more questions about more myths, that we thought we would continue with more myths this month. Horticultural myths abound, so if it helpful to our readers, we are happy to help dispel some of them. After the 5 myths from our June newsletter, we continue on to:

Myth #6: Foliar Fertilizing is Better than Root Feeding ~ Not True!

Using foliar feeding instead of root feeding has several dangers for your hibiscus. First, foliar feeding during summer heat can badly burn the leaves, turn them yellow or brown, and make them fall off. We get email weekly from customers who have burned their hibiscus leaves with foliar feeding and ask us how to save their plants.

Second, research shows that when plants receive nutrition through their leaves, the nutrients stay only in the leaves. Leaves are not made for transporting nutrients. Roots, on the other hand, are highly evolved transport systems that very efficiently move nutrients all over the plant. Feeding through the roots is the only way to ensure that all parts of the plant will get the nutrients.

Root feeding is necessary to promote maximum plant health.

Last of all, leaves cannot absorb enough fertlizer to provide the plant with the nutrition it needs. Roots have a much greater capacity for absorbing everything, from water to fertilizer, and only roots can absorb enough to feed a whole hibiscus plant. Leaves can absorb a little bit directly into themselves, and can meet some of their own needs, but not all of even their own needs. For the health of your plants, don't substitute foliar feeding for root feeding.

Doing an occasional supplemental spraying of plant hormones or a very specific remedy for a specific problem, like iron for cholorosis, can be a way to get quick results into the leaves. But this foliar spray should never be a substitute for root feeding. It should be done simultaneously with root feeding. The roots take longer to transport the nutrients, so a quick boost can come from a foliar spray, followed up by a thorough feeding up from the roots. But this kind of foliar spray is not necessary. We don't use foliar sprays in our HVH greenhouse. If you use a good program of root feeding, you will keep your plants uniformaly healthy from roots to tips of leaves and flowers, and you won't need the extra boost of foliar sprays.

Myth #7: Look for a Rootbound Plant when you Shop for Plants ~ Yikes!!!

A rootbound plant causes slow starvation.
This is one of the more damaging myths. Rootbound plants mean damaged roots! The more circling of the roots, called girdling, the more damaged the roots are. All growers have plants that become rootbound at times, but a responsible grower tries to avoid this as much as possible.

Roots are very sensitive and need to space themselves out from each other. The tiniest, most fragile little root hairs are the parts of the root that take up the water and nutrients from the soil, and they need room to reach out into the soil. If the roots are crammed together, wound around and around the bottom of the pot on top of each other, the hairs get crushed, the roots get hard and tough, and they become much less able to take up nutrients. Even worse, when they are growing into a tight little circle, they sometimes can't get turned outward into the fresh soil. They can get stuck circling ever tighter on each other, strangling each other, and slowly starving the plant.

Myth #8: Plant your Hibiscus in a Deep Hole ~ Quite the Opposite!

A hole should be wider than the plant's pot, but no deeper.
Many people think you should dig a huge, deep hole for hibiscus plants, and plant the hibiscus down deep into the hole, completely covering all the roots and the base of the plant. But it's the opposite! Roots need oxygen - lots of oxygen! The soil closest to the surface, where the air is, is the most richly oxygenated. So roots need to grow up close to the surface of the soil to be their healthiest. If you plant your hibiscus down deep into the soil, the roots will have to struggle to get up to the surface where the oxygen is.

It is better to dig a very wide hole that loosens and aerates all the soil sideways around the roots of your hibiscus, but the hole should be no deeper than the depth of the pot the hibiscus is coming out of. In fact, in damp or humid climates, it's best to have the roots show a little bit at the top, rather then completely burying them. This helps prevent rot at the crown, the place where the roots meet the main stalk, if your soil stays a bit too wet.


. . . . . . And for a Different Kind of Mythology. . .

A Hibiscus Legend from India

Indian Hibiscus courtesy of Prejith Sampath
In India, hibiscus is called Java or Japa which comes from the ancient Sanskrit word for "prayer", Japa. It is a special gift that is given, like a "prayer," to the goddess Kali. This is the story from the ancient book of the eternal mother, the Devi Bhagavata.

Jasun, the hibiscus tree, loved and worshipped the eternal mother with all her heart. One day the gods asked the eternal mother to assume the form of the goddess Kali to destroy an evil demon. The little hibiscus tree offered Kali the vivid red of her hibiscus flowers so that Kali's eyes could burn red with anger. Kali was so happy with the hibiscus gift that she offered Jasun anything she wanted in return. The humble little hibiscus tree asked only to serve the eternal mother forever.

"I wish to serve you forever", replied Jasun humbly.

"You shall be my flower", blessed Kali "From today you will be known by many names: Jathon, Deviphool, Jaba Kusum. Whoever worships me with your flowers shall be blessed by me."

  • Ghandi, M. and Singh, Y., 2011. "Mythology of Indian Plants," Chitra Rangarajan,, Chapter 29: Hibiscus.

  • Yarnspinnerr, 2013. "The Ligo Haibun Challenge ~ Prompt "Bouquet,",, Esoteric: Weekly Challenge: February 8, 2013


A Hibiscus Legend from Hawaii

Hibiscus Arnottianus, Hawiian Native Hibiscus Species
This is the story of an exquisitely beautiful Hawaiian princess named Kahalaopuna. Beloved by all, she was closely guarded and protected from everything, including the ocean surf, which she was never allowed to go near by her very strict grandfather, father, and her jealous fiancé, Kauhi. The surf at Waikiki where she lived was some of the most exquisite surf in the islands. People came from far and wide to bathe, ride, and relax in the waves, but Kahalaopuna never got to join them.

One day the men in her family left her alone in the house. She looked out at the perfect, gentle waves and temptation overcame her. She ran down to the ocean and happily paddled out to sea on a surfboard. Kauhi, her fiancé, spotted her in the sea and went into a jealous rage. He became a shark, swam out to Kahalaopuna, killed her and swallowed her up.

When Kahalaopuna's parents heard what had happened to her, in their grief they forever left their human form. Her father became a grove of hibiscus trees near where she died, and her mother became the rain that watered the hibiscus. Both still keep watch over the old home of their beloved child.

  • Various, 2006. "Hawaiian Folk Tales: A Collection of Native Legends," Thrum, T., Editor. 'Kahalaopuna, Princess of Manoa,' Nakuina, E.M. Gutenberg Press, [EBook #18450].


A Hibiscus Legend from China

Rose of China, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
There was once a very beautiful woman who was married to a blind man whom she loved with all her heart. One day the rich lord of the village passed by on his horse, saw her beauty, and was instantly smitten. He tried everything to get her to leave her blind husband and come live with him, but she steadfastly refused. Finally, in frustration, the lord had his men kidnap her and bring her to his palace. He demanded that she love him instead of her blind husband, and she refused more adamantly than ever before. The lord flew into a jealous rage and killed her.

The people of the village buried her next to the house of her heart-broken husband. He threw himself on the grave of his wife and refused to leave for many months. Out of their love and devotion, a bush sprang up from the grave and flowered into a beautiful hibiscus flower.

  • Clancy, B., 2013. "The Genus Hibiscus (Malvaceae)," Botanical Diversity, Biology Dept., Clark University, Worcester, Mass.,

  • Online Flowers Guide, 2014. "Hibiscus - A Guide to Hibiscus Flowers,"

Seedling of the Month...

'Amelia Earhart'

Exotic Hibiscus 'Amelia Earhart'
Exotic Hibiscus 'Amelia Earhart'

Exotic Hibiscus 'Diamond Ring'
'Amelia Earhart' on Day 2

Our July Seedling of the Month is a new giant hibiscus we named 'Amelia Earhart.' The flower is a giant 8-10" blue single with an orange edge that softens to yellow in heat. We have several flowers in similar colors, and one or two others in the giant size, so it's not just the beautiful flower that is getting us excited. The thing we are most hopeful about with 'Amelia Earhart' is the strong, well-branched, lush, pretty bush.

As many of us know all too well, sometimes the hibiscus with the biggest and most beautiful flowers can be the trickiest to grow. There is a learning curve with growing hibiscus, and our goal is to decrease that learning curve rather than increase it. We constantly strive to create stronger, more vigorous, easier to grow hibiscus plants. Sometimes it seems like we grow new flowers that look very much like older flowers, and people wonder why we bother. But the improvements we're seeking are in the plants themselves, what we call the bush.

We hybridize for bushes that grow quickly, resist disease and pests better, pull themselves through heat and cold stress more easily, and branch well with more beautiful foliage, and of course, flower more. Getting all these improvements in every plant will take us many more years of development. But each time we make a small step forward with a new hibiscus, we feel that a milestone has been met.

'Amelia Earhart' is looking like one of these plants. It has a very large blue flower, which traditionally has almost automatically spelled a less vigorous, trickier bush. For some reason, the genes that create blue flowers also tend to create touchier bushes. But 'Amelia Earhart' has a beautiful bush that shows signs of being stronger and easier to grow than most of our other blues. Both of its parents, 'Bright Hope' and 'Radiant' have very strong, well branched bushes, and 'Amelia Earhart' seems to have gotten the best bush genes from both parents. Only time will tell, but we are very hopeful about this promising new seedling. We hope to have it available in limited numbers in the near future.