August plant of the month

A hardy hibiscus brings a tropical touch to the garden

Bring the tropics to your garden with this summer-flowering shrub covered in distinctive red-centred pure white flowers Hibiscus syriacus 'Red Heart'.

A cultivated variety of a species native to Asia, this plant is one of the stars of Rosemoor's Exotic Garden during late summer. The blooms are stunning, 10cm diameter with pure white silky petals and ruby-red centres. Each flower lasts a few days, although flowering is prolific for several weeks.

Although it looks delicate, 'Red Heart' is hardy in most places in the UK and can comfortably survive -10°C. However, to perform well, it is best placed in a sheltered spot in full sun, ideally in moist but well drained soil in a south or west-facing wall-side border or courtyard situation.

The lobed leaves of 'Red Heart' appear quite late in spring and are pale when they emerge but darken as the season progresses. This deciduous shrub responds well to pruning and can easily be kept within bounds once it has finished flowering in the autumn. Naturally a multi-stemmed shrub, it can be pruned to grow as a single-stem standard. It is a useful plant for towns since it is resistant to urban pollution. In more rural areas deer are not attracted to it. Bees and butterflies flock to its rich red heart.

When not in flower, 'Red Heart' is less significant so benefits from being planted with companions that put on a show at different times of the year. Spring-flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, plants with with good autumn colour (such as acers) and evergreens including Ilex all work well.

In the Exotic Garden, it is a companion to other plants from warmer climes such as Pelargonium denticulatum 'Filicifolium' with its finely cut, fern-like scented foliage, Begonia boliviensis with bright red flowers throughout the summer and Ensete ventricosum 'Tandarra Red' with large red-tinted banana leaves.

This beautiful plant will remind you of exotic holidays and if you can provide the right conditions it could be a magnificent addition to your border.

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