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Master Gardener Sue Morris: Late summer and fall perennials blooming now

The highlight right now in my perennial flower bed is my hardy hibiscus.

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We are at the time of year when a lot of the perennials in our flower beds are through blooming and getting prepared for winter by storing energy for next year.

Of course, if we have dahlias, gladiolas, mums, asters and other late summer bloomers, there is still plenty of color in the garden.

As you drive around the country, you can see how popular all the different varieties of hydrangea have become — usually the white and pink varieties with some of the white ones turning green as they mature.

Mums are considered short lived perennials in Minnesota, unless you have planted some of the Minnesota mums developed by the University of Minnesota — and even those don’t live forever.

I haven’t planted glads or dahlias for a few years now and really miss their beautiful colors. They are perfect for cut arrangements in the house. I’m sure the corn rootworm aphids miss chewing on the glad flowers late in the season too.

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The highlight right now in my perennial flower bed is my hardy hibiscus.

large pink blooms on a hardy hibiscus plant
Flowers on a hardy hibiscus plant.
Contributed | Sue Morris

Bright pink blooms as big as dinner plates. There are seven separate stalks from this one plant and all are blooming their hearts out.

Unfortunately, you need to have lots of buds, as each blossom only lasts about a day — much like daylily blooms.

I have another newer smaller dark red hibiscus but don’t know if it will bloom this year or not — blame it on the lack of rain. Certainly can’t be anything I’ve done wrong.

In looking at the University web site, they don’t even mention hardy hibiscus and neither does Mike Heger’s book “Growing Perennials in Cold Climates.”

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My first introduction to the hardy hibiscus was when I saw them on a garden tour in St. Cloud many years ago. I knew about the ones you find in garden centers in the spring that can be put outdoors but need to come inside before frost.

I finally found hardy hibiscus seeds in a catalog and started them indoors in late March. They lasted outdoors for about five years. They are hardy for our zone but I view them as short-lived perennials.

Hardy hibiscus is slow to emerge in the spring, often not showing themselves until late June. I always leave the old stalks in place over winter so I can keep track of where they are planted.

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When the new shoots emerge, then the old stalks can be broken off.

Hibiscus plants require a location with well-draining soil and lots of sunlight. If you find one in a garden center in the spring, they will be potted and growing.

If you order from a catalog they are usually shipped as bare roots to be planted in the springtime, after frost.

If they arrive early, consider starting them indoors.

Dig a hole large enough to spread out the roots and deep enough to plant it at the same depth as it is in the pot. Gently break up any bound roots and spread the roots out when planting. They usually reach about 3 feet tall.

I feel they are worth the effort and not much more expensive than a hanging pot of annuals that we know will only last one summer. But then I wouldn’t be without some pots of annuals either as they give color all summer.

If you are wondering which scarecrow got the most votes at the Master Gardener outdoor booth at the Kandiyohi County Fair — it was the Mischievous Minions.

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Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing this column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.

Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing a column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.
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