Rose of Sharon is Summer Blooming Treasure

One of the most glorious hot-weather plants is the rose of Sharon. It is only because of our deep-seated prejudice toward deciduous plants that we do not see more of it. When making decisions about what to plant, people in Los Angeles generally ignore species that go leafless for several months of the year, no matter how exceptional their flowers may be during the growing season.
If you are not familiar with the summer-blooming rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), perhaps you know the spring-blooming Martha Washington geranium (Geranium domesticum). The flowers of these two species are similar in the quality of their colors. More matte than glossy, such flowers are always a pleasure to behold, being easier on the eye than more showy, lustrous fare. For example, while the shiny flowers of the common Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) and ivy geranium (Geranium peltatum) have undisputed glamour, they will never have the charm of their less ostentatious cousins.
Rose of Sharon flowers may be white, rose or mauve, depending on the variety. At this moment, hundreds of blooms are visible on the plants, which grow into 8-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide, vase-shaped shrubs.
Each shrub should be given a separate domain in the garden. I once saw a stunning rose of Sharon collection in which each of half a dozen shrubs occupied its own distinct area of a Hollywood front yard. Grown against a building or in a hedge, with restricted air flow on any side, rose of Sharon is highly susceptible to mildew and mealy bugs.
Cold hardiness is a major virtue of rose of Sharon. It can grow in the chilliest desert and mountain regions, from Lake Los Angeles to Lake Arrowhead.
Other plants in the hibiscus family include the various treemallows (Lavatera species), some of Mediterranean origin and some California natives. These plants put on a phenomenal amount of annual growth and can be severely cut back each year without adverse affects. The African hibiscus (Anisodonteahypomandarum) has demure pinkish flowers, only about an inch across, and is most wisely placed close to entrances and walkways where its understated beauty can be best appreciated.
Greg Truesdell of Chatsworth is searching for plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies but only a few bees, to which he is allergic. He also favors scented flowers. It will be difficult to find scented flowers that do not attract bees since it is those very scents that encourage bees to visit and pollinate flowers in the first place. If I had to recommend a scented plant that did not attract an inordinate number of bees, it would probably be star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).
By the same token, plants in the sage (Salvia species) family, many of which attract hummingbirds, are also attractive to bees. Trumpet vines, all of which are visited by hummingbirds, are not known, in particular, for attracting bees. You should definitely avoid rosemary and lantana, two popular shrubs/ground covers that are generally covered with bees.
Tip of the week: If you are thinking of planting hibiscus, make sure you avoid the popular red-flowered variety. These are magnets for the giant whitefly, a pest that covers its host plant with a fluffy substance that resembles laundry lint.

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