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Althea: Hibiscus syriacus or Rose of Sharon

Althea Blushing Bride Shady Gardens Nursery
Once again I found myself a discouraged gardener because all that wonderful rainful we'd been receiving has come to a screeching halt! I'm not sure when it rained last here, but I know it's time to begin praying again when I take a walk through my garden. Yesterday as I looked with sadness at all the wilted plants, I was impressed with the fluffy blooms and dark green leaves of Althea 'Blushing Bride.' Althea is a beautiful name to me, but this shrub is also known as Hybiscus syriacus. I like to refer to this plant by its common name of Rose of Sharon, since that is my name, but whatever you call it, Althea is a wonderful garden shrub for the south. Even when not in bloom, the foliage is attractive, remaining green and bushy even during the severe drought to which our Georgia summers are prone. Blooms can be anywhere from a crisp snow white to a dark pinkish red. Single blooms with a red eye are common but single-color blooms are available, and double blooms are spectacular. As shown in the photo, 'Blushing Bride' is particularly beautiful with its soft pink fluffy double blooms that resemble carnations. What amazes me most about Althea is its obvious tolerance for dry conditions. The name Hibiscus usually indicates a love for water and full sun. In my garden, Hibiscus syriacus or Rose of Sharon seems to prefer afternoon shade. We have been unable to offer supplemental water to the plants in our woodland garden, yet we have several Altheas that have not only survived, but they have thrived during this drought. Leaves remain deep green and blooms arrive at just about the same time that outdoor temperatures are unbearably hot. Lucky for me, I've planted some of these shrubs close enough to the house to be viewed from a window! Rose of Sharon can be grown almost anywhere in the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. Tolerant of not only drought, but also heat, air pollution, and salty air, Althea is so easy to grow that every garden should have it! Since Althea is available in just about every color, you can find one suitable for your garden. These heirloom plants are hard to find in the nursery however. They do root easily from cuttings, if you know someone who'll let you 'take a piece.' Send me a message if you want me to help you find one.