The Q&A Archives: Shape Of Lord Baltimore Hibiscus

Question: I have 5 Lord Baltimore Rose Mallows planted in a "W" shape on the east wall of my garage. They get a good deal of sun and seem to be growing well. This is their first full year in this location.

Here's my question--In mid-June, we got 4 full days of storms and rain -- which made the plants fall over each other bending. I tried straightening them with shepherd hooks, but they've never gone back to vertical. Is this typical? Should I stake them early in their next growing season to get them vertical?

I have noticed a local college that has, what appears to be, the same plants or something very similar, and theirs look more like a bush, while mine have one large trunk-like base with branches growing more horizonally. Just trying to figure them out...

Answer: In my experience the Lord Baltimore and similar types of large flowered, tall, perennial hibiscus tend to be a bit ungainly. If the terminal bud or tip of the plant was damaged in the storm, that could cause it to grow somewhat horizontally by branching out, rather than growing straight up and arching or splaying. Each year, the plant should form more shoots from underground, but they tend to be strongly upward growing and then arching, not very symmetrical or tidy looking. Some gardeners will try to stake them, some grow them up through a support such as a wire ring, and others will try pruning a few of the shoots to varying lengths in early summer to make a denser look. It is a matter of personal taste which way you handle them. I let mine sprawl out and allow neighboring shrubs to support them, but they are planted in a somewhat naturalistic area where there is room for that. It is possible that the college is growing a different variety of hibiscus, there are several types on the market. You might contact their grounds department and ask what variety they have and how they are treating them with regard to care. Enjoy your Lord Baltimores -- they are awesome when they bloom en masse.

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