For our August native plant, we are highlighting Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus Moscheutos). If you have ever seen this plant with its massive flowers, you may immediately recognize it as a type of Hibiscus. In fact, it is one of three types of hibiscus you can find in the Gardens at Wellfield. You may be more familiar with the tropical species found in garden centers in spring. We like to display a large tropical hibiscus every year at Wellfield; this year, it is on our Event Plaza by the fountain. It’s easy to spot, with its beautiful crimson flowers which bloom throughout the summer season. The other hibiscus species found in a few spots at Wellfield is Rose of Sharon; there are a lot of cultivars commonly grown in our local climate. Unfortunately for us, that beautiful shrub is not native. Many people do not realize swamp rose mallow is native. Usually, our large flowering garden plants are from far away places, but this one can even be found growing naturally in Elkhart County.
Swamp Rose Mallow is very unique, so we wanted to put some focus on it this month and share some other facts that are not as well known about this plant. The large flowers bloom in late summer, and most tend to be in the pink, red, purple spectrum. Some will flower white and usually have a colored center. The main pollinators attracted to Swamp Rose Mallow are solitary bees, not the honey bees most people picture when they hear the word bee. The shape and color of the leaves vary on the different cultivars. The more natural specimens have green leaves and are not deeply lobed. Examples of this type can be found in our Elk Garden along with some other late summer blooming plants. The more deeply lobed and colored leaf cultivars are able to be seen in our Bridge Garden. Even before the stunning flowers come out, the foliage alone deserves a spot in a garden. It can be easy to forget these plants are native, because we are used to seeing native gardens based around prairie designs. These plants will fit into even the most aesthetically focused gardens.
Swamp Rose Mallow is native to the eastern half of the U.S., but can be found in some western states and south into Texas. The type of environment it thrives in tends to have plenty of water and sun. As the name implies, it tends to like more swamp-like conditions than its relatives we have growing in the Gardens. They are quite resilient, despite enjoying more water; they tolerated our early drought this year with almost no evidence of stress. With pretty minimal care, these will bloom year after year, brighten up your August, and not require more than basic upkeep. If you make it out to Wellfield to check out some of our rose mallow, we also have additional information displayed by some of our specimens. I hope you will keep this plant in mind if you ever want to add natives to a garden or just want to add a big splash of color.
Cody Hoff, Lead Horticulturist