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The scarlet rose mallow produces an abundance of scarlet star-shaped blooms
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By Norman Winter
McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
No matter what type of garden you have, the scarlet rose mallow has the ability to steal the attention of your visitors. To be honest I hate that name from a marketing standpoint and I actually learned of the plant as a Texas Star hibiscus. As luck would have it some taxonomic board has concluded it is not native to Texas. I hear there is now even an argument that it is not really native to the Southeast. But for now we can sleep blissfully knowing indeed it is a treasured native from Louisiana to Florida, northward to Virginia.
Don't let native status or an ugly name like swamp mallow or scarlet mallow deter you from growing one of the most picturesque perennial hibiscuses available at the garden center. To clarify my first sentence, the tightly formal need not try to use this plant. But those with a grandma's cottage feel, a passion for the Caribbean or the backyard wildlife enthusiast, this is definitely a plant for you.
Here at the Columbus Botanical Garden our complex is designed around a late 1800s farmhouse with many of the original outbuildings. The scarlet rose mallow fits this garden perfectly as nearby we have planted rudbeckias, Joe Pye weed and other perennials known to be favorites of butterflies and hummingbirds.
It is a cold-tolerant perennial hardy from zones 5 through 10 and produces some of the tallest plants for the flower border. Ours has been producing scores of scarlet, star-shaped flowers in abundance and to the delight of the ruby-throated hummingbirds. The foliage is a striking glossy green and has a maple-like shape.
If you are into the tropical look, you can create your corner of paradise by combining it with large banana trees like the cold-hardy Japanese fiber banana or with elephant ears. Try using in combination with the yellow bush-form allamanda or yellow-blooming canna lilies. Place the hibiscus to the back of the border to hide its giraffe-leg-like stalks.