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Envy is one of the seven cardinal sins. But honestly, it’s hard not to turn just a little pea green at the vision of a Rose of Sharon in full, glorious bloom when it’s in a neighbor’s yard and not your own.

For sheer “wow” power, you can’t beat Rose of Sharon. This tropical-looking perennial is one of late summer’s most prolific bloomers. You’ll often hear it called “hibiscus,” but make sure you’re planting the hardy perennial Hibiscus syriacus in your garden. Rose mallow is another common name for the plant. Most varieties are hardy to USDA Zones 4 or 5. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, on the other hand, is a true tropical flower hardy to zones 10 and 11.

Rose of Sharon is a long-blooming North American native. They grow best in full sun to light shade and moist, well-drained soil. Provide regular, consistent waterings to encourage larger flowers and lush foliage. Experts recommend heavily mulching the plant so it will survive the first winter. Do not prune in the fall; wait until spring to cut back any stems to 4 or so inches before new growth begins. Remember that Rose of Sharon is always late to the spring party, preferring to make a grand entrance.

This season Proven Winners introduced a newcomer in their “Summerific” series, “Cherry Choco Latte.” This new hibiscus is ideal for smaller gardens and tight spaces. The flowers measure 8 to 9 inches across and are white with deep pink veining and a large red eye. Foliage is olive green with bronze highlights on a compact, clumping plant. The variety replaces “Cherry Cheesecake.”

Proven Winners recommends putting varieties from the “Summerific” series in the ground rather than containers because of their size and extensive root systems.

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Others in the series include “Holy Grail,” with near-black foliage and 8- to 9-inch-wide dark red flowers, and “Berry Awesome,” featuring 7-to 8-inch-wide ruffled flowers in lavender pink with a cherry-red eye. “Perfect Storm” offers white flowers with a red eye measuring 7 to 8 inches across. Maple-like leaves are deep black-purple on a rounded clump. “Cranberry Crush” is one that can be container-grown. Deep green, maple-like leaves provide a backdrop for 7- to 8-inch-wide deep scarlet-red flowers.

Monrovia has many Rose of Sharon varieties on the market, too. “Blushing Bride” is hardy to zones 5-9 and has large, pink-blush double flowers. “Blue Chiffon” has delicate-looking, anemone-like blue blossoms, but is described as a vigorous grower.

Japanese beetles adore these plants. They will make a meal of leaves and buds, so be prepared to protect your plant with an insecticide containing pyrethrin or Neem, an organic defense of your choice, or the ol’ finger-pickin’ squish-and-stomp. Icky, but effective (and somehow satisfying, but I digress).

Also, look for varieties with buds up and down the stems, not just at the tips. This will ensure a showier bloom for an extended time.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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