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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 30, 2003

Hibiscus need lots of sun, drainage to flourish

By Heidi Bornhorst

Q. We bought a Remembrance hibiscus at the Foster garden plant sale in honor of victims of 9-11. Now, please tell us some of the details. How do we best care for this lovely bloom in Kaimuki?

A. Give your hibiscus as much sun as possible for maximum blooming and good growth. Partial shade is OK, but make sure it gets some vitamin S, as in sunshine. Hibiscus need good drainage.

As hibiscus specialty grower Jill Coryell says, "If your soil holds water instead of draining, add washed sand, perlite, or lava cinders to the soil." Coryell also recommends fertilizer with a low middle number, for example, Osmocote 18-6-12 slow-release fertilizer with minor elements, if possible. A water-soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Gro or Peters with a low middle number or a ratio like 20-20-20 is advised. Every so often, give it a drink of fish emulsion, about one tablespoon to one-fourth cup per gallon. Many plants benefit from fish emulsion, a rather old-fashioned type of fertilizer.

Tip: This fish treatment (at the lower end of the range, one tablespoon per gallon of water) also is great for many garden plants, including special, cherished ferns such as palapalai, pala'a and ekaha.

Glorious gold

The gold trees of at least three species are in bloom, all over town, again. They were so bright as we set off on Memorial Day morning that my husband just had to detour us to the airport viaduct to see how those were coming along. This whole streetscape planting was given exceptional-tree status and are thus recognized and protected by law. I do love this whole landscape; it looks great from Nimitz in the cool canyon of palms and gold-tree trunks. It is stunning from the viaduct, with gold trees popping up as well as the crowns of various palms, waving in the breeze.

Amid all the gold is the bright orange of African tulip trees. These are weedy, but they sure are pretty in a borrowed landscape as along our streets and freeways.

The bougainvillea also is bright and in full bloom, and it complemented the gold trees. The colors are vivid. This is a low-maintenance plant combination for our hot, dry freeways.

Out in Kahalu'u, the crape myrtles, or Lagerstroemia, are giving a good show in the drainage swallow near Kahekili Highway and in nearby neighborhoods.

We came home over the Pali, and there was Betty Crocker's memorial crape myrtle coming into bloom with several long purple flower spikes, just mauka of Queen Emma's Summer Palace in Nu'uanu Valley Park.

About bougainvillea

Q. Where are bougies from?

A. Bougainvilleas are native to Brazil. For years, we had the wild purple thorny takeover type, Bougainvillea spectabilis, its nice flowers great for lei.

In the 1960s, growers and plant lovers such as the late Donald Angus brought in many cultivars of gorgeous bougainvillea. Angus had contacts all over the bougainvillea-growing world and had the best ones imported into Hawai'i via Foster Botanical Garden. Bougies were imported from such places as India, the Philippines and Kenya.

Today, many of our newer and more colorful varieties of bougies are coming in from Thailand. Their bright blooming, especially along our congested roads and freeways, is a cheering sight for tired eyes.