Monsoon Mixer and Hawaiian Big Kahuna were two plants that brought us a load of tropical joy during a long growing season that started with monsoonal rains and finished with what is now being called a flash drought.
Tropical hibiscus has a way of awakening those island thoughts that lie dormant in the hidden parts of the mind. Monsoon Mixer and Creole Lady are both names given to one of the most beautiful and unique hibiscus plants, on the planet.
You may wonder what is so hot about Monsoon Mixer; does it change colors or something? The answer is, yes, it does. It offers rare colors and patterns that gardeners everywhere are sure to love, whether they have a tropical climate or a growing season that only lasts a few months.
Not since Rum Runner, have I been so thrilled with the change of colors in a hibiscus bloom. You will always see multiple colors in the flowers but in the morning, it starts with a deeply saturated coral surrounding a lavender swirled throat.
Of course, you want to shoot photos because by noon, or shortly thereafter, the coral becomes a bright gold with a throat showing hints of blue mixed with the lavender. By late afternoon it is soft yellow, with a shade of blue and an inner throat of lavender-pink.
It is a little pot luck on the colors you will see during the hours of the day, coupled with the changing patterns of sunlight and shortening day length. This is the hibiscus that truly patterns the quote from the "Forest Gump" movie, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get."
Hawaiian Big Kahuna is different, its color stays the same. I should say colors as you will see a soft yellow gold around the margins followed by a large swath of white partnered with a deep burgundy throat. The most noteworthy trait is that it lives up to its name, it truly is monolithic in size.
I remember the first time I saw a hummingbird feeding on the flowers I thought the hummers were babies or miniature but in reality, the flowers are just monstrous. Even one flower will stop you in your tracks but imagine with several open at once.
No matter where you live there is a season for the tropical hibiscus. It belongs in the landscape whether combined with bananas, cannas, elephant ears, or grandma's cottage garden. The requirements are much like any other annual we grow. Plant your hibiscus in well-drained, well-prepared beds because they absolutely cannot take wet feet, but use a good layer of mulch to keep the soil evenly moist through the season and, of course, to make weed control easier.
Choose a site with plenty of sunlight. Morning sun and filtered afternoon light are just about perfect in our state. Hibiscus blooms on new growth so it is important to keep it growing vigorously throughout the season.
Keep them well-fed and watered during drought periods.
If you are growing hibiscus in containers during the summer, they must be watered daily. Keep in mind that the nutrients quickly leach from the soil. You will have to apply a dilute, water-soluble fertilizer weekly or add time-released granules per formula recommendation.
The hibiscus brought my family great joy in the summer of 2019 and we will be growing them next year, too. I hope you'll look for Monsoon Mixer. Hawaiian Big Kahuna and at least keep your eyes out for those special varieties that will be available at your garden center.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)