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Hibiscus syriacus 'Bluebird'

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Common name: 'Bluebird' rose of Sharon, shrub althea
Plant type: Shrub
Flower color: Nearly azure blue
Bloom period: Mid summer through early fall
Fragrance: None
Height: 8-10'
Hardiness: Zones 5-9
Light needs: Full sun to light shade
Moisture needs: Average
Seasonal character: Large lavender blue flowers with burgundy throats from midsummer through fall

For some reason, I have never liked rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). They always remind me of dowdy old women---that is, until I encountered the cultivar 'Bluebird'. What makes this rose of Sharon so different? In a word, its color, which is a true light blue with hardly a hint of lavender. This color is so ravishing in late summer, especially when compared to the dusty pinks polluted by lavender that this plant usually offers. The effect is enhanced by the burgundy red center of each blossom.

Bluebird is an old cultivar, yet I didn't see it in commerce much until around 8 years ago. All of the specimens I've seen seem to have a full, compact habit, especially as compared to the gangly old specimens of rose of Sharon one often sees around old midwestern farm houses. But perhaps the Bluebirds I've seen have just been better pruned than your average rose of Sharon.

Rose of Sharon is a shrub that profits from quite aggressive pruning in early spring. Don't worry about cutting away; you won't lose any flowerbuds because the plant flowers on new (current year's) wood. Not only will heavy pruning improve the habit of the plant, keeping it bushy and cloaked with foliage, but it will increase flower size. You can also prune the plant aggressively to keep it down to a manageable size if 10 feet is too big for you.

Rose of Sharon is not picky about soil or moisture, as long as it's not extremely wet or dry. Of course, like most plants, it does best in a good garden soil amended with compost.

'Bluebird,' like all roses of Sharon, isn't really interesting except when it's flowering. But when this shrub is covered with 3-4" sky blue flowers, it's a knock-out. It pairs wonderfully with caryopteris' smoky blue flowers, as well as with those of Russian sage. For a more original combination, add some Knautia macedonica, whose deep claret red blossoms echo the deep red centers of Bluebird's.

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Plants In Profile
Having a collector's mentality in my plant passion, I've had to learn how to make the best garden choices for myself and others. Here are my very favorite plants--some old, some new--but all plants that earn their place in any garden. Included are the latest and greatest plant introductions from France and the rest of Europe eminently suitable for New World gardens. Barbara Wilde
   
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